Sunday, April 17, 2005

smoking ban in austin?

Killfloor's got a little about this (scroll down his city elections guide to where he talks about the propositions up for vote):

"Currently around 46,000 businesses in Austin are completely smoke free. This initiative would make it a point to single out the remaining 211 businesses that allow their patrons to indulge in “smokes” (when children under 18 are not present, as dictated by the current ordinance) and effectively ban smoking in these places as well. 200 of these businesses are bars, nightclubs, and music venues. Since statistics show a slow in bar and restaurant growth in states which have enforced a similar initiative (such as California) the live music industry in Austin (particularly the fledging clubs in the burgeoning Red River district) is generally against the initiative."

see? there's already lots of choice in the matter for all you non-smokers. he also says that bar business HAS slowed in places like CA with smoking bans, especially for the smaller clubs, i will research and find out where he gets this (although i suspect that the statistics will be different depending on which faction is doing the compiling and reporting).

the austin chronicle also has a couple of articles on the matter, especially about how austin IS different from NYC, large CA cities, and other nonsmoking-only cities, notably in types of bars that exist and that will be affected by such a ban. darcie stevens discusses many austinites' fears of how this will affect the austin club scene, specifically my favorite bit of town, the red river district (encompassing Club 710, Beerland (more on them in a bit), Elysium, and other fabulous indie-music-friendly clubs). she also rightly points out that if this ban is enacted, it can't be discussed, changed, or even tinkered with for two years - an eternity in the life of a small venue.

"From Hole in the Wall to the Broken Spoke, every music venue in this city will change. And while Onward Austin keeps reiterating that studies show New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and other cities all doing fine with similar smoking bans, some man-on-the-street reports from those same cities are far more jarring. (See News, p.32.) According to such accounts, smaller neighborhood bars and venues are the first to go. Locally, that coincides with the heart of Austin's rock scene, the Red River district, where the Live Music Capital's lifeblood pumps every single night.

The most important thing to remember? If the smoking ban passes on May 7 – early voting begins this Wednesday, April 20 – it can't be amended, repealed, or remedied for two years. That's more than enough time for any affected venue to go out of business. Two years in the turbulent world of the music business is an eternity. If there's any doubt about this smoking ban, maybe the risk is just too high."

the second article has daniel mottola chasing down club owners and musicians from those cities where smoking bans have been enacted and finds a mixed bag of reactions. interesting reading for those on both sides of the fence.

the Austin American-Statesman is also running an article about the smoking ban, with viewpoints from either side of the fence, and they mention what i'm perhaps remembering as the opening of a specifically non-smoking club in austin:

"Randall and Donya Stockton launched Beerland on Red River Street almost four years ago with 12 cases of beer and a dream to fill a need for punk and garage bands.

Neither one a smoker, the Stocktons saw an opportunity to create a punk scene without the haze of cigarette smoke.

"I thought there was an untapped market when we first opened. So we tried it," said Randall.

The nonsmokers did not come, but the smokers did. And they wanted to smoke.

"I had to adjust the model to focus on people who actually come," Randall said. "That's what enables us to be open. That's what enables us to incubate talent . . . and reach an audience."

where were those non-smoking hordes of wannabe club-goers when we needed 'em, eh? from the darcie stevens article:

"Last June's revised ordinance – reworked after the City Council reversed former Mayor Gus Garcia's stringent ban – forced live music venues to offer nonsmoking shows on Mondays, 52 weeks a year. So the clubs did ... and according to them, nobody came. Sure, it was Monday, but compared to smoking-permitted Mondays immediately before the rule, there was a huge drop in attendance. No fans mean no bands want to play. No music, no show.

So what of these nonsmokers? What of this huge contingency of people that Onward Austin claims will appear when the bars go smoke-free? There are two types of nonsmokers: those who already go to shows and support the scene, and those who don't go to bars, period. The current nonsmoking clubgoers, for the most part, oppose the ban. While some think it would be nice, most are afraid their favorite bars will close or face economic problems."

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