Since a state law prohibiting smoking in public places went into effect last month, area law enforcement hasn’t had any problems with enforcement, but bar owners and managers have vastly different opinions on how the law has affected their businesses.
According to Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin and Detective Mark McDonald of the Valley City Police Department, neither of their departments have had any complaints about smokers.
Veterans of Foreign Wars bar manager Tom Martin said he hasn’t had any problems with smokers in his bar, and most of his patrons don’t seem to mind the law. Most of them were already used to going to other places where smoking wasn’t allowed, he said, so they’re OK with the law.
“People who smoke know where they can go,” he said.
Mark Boom, owner of Boomer’s Corner Keg, said the day the law went into effect, nobody was in his bar, and business has been down ever since, hurting his and his employees’ livelihoods. He’s even had people quit dart leagues because they can’t smoke.
Boom believes the law unfairly targets bar owners. With repeated offenses, a bar’s liquor license could be revoked, which would put the bar out of business. No other type of business faces closure for smoking violations, Boom said.
He also believes the law is too hard to understand and unenforceable. And it takes away his rights as a property owner.
Valley City commissioners have already encountered vagueness regarding the law as it applies to shelters. Recently, Ryan Mathias, owner of the Nu Bar, approached the commission with a plan for a smoking shelter and was asked by the city attorney to wait to build until the city can fully understand what was legal.
The law states that shelters must not have more than 33 percent wall area, including windows. This does not include a roof.
Boom can’t build a shelter because his building is bordered by the street in the front with no room 20 feet from his back door, the distance the law says smokers must be from an entrance.
“I own the building and the property, and I can’t smoke on it, he said.
Vicki Rosenau, tobacco coordinator for Barnes County/Valley City Health, has only had a few smoking complaints filed through her office.
According to Rosenau, the official emphasis now is on education, not enforcement. Her office offers educational materials, including literature and “No Smoking” signs (which she is currently out of but will have soon) to bar owners and managers.
She has, however, had several positive comments from the public regarding the law. One anonymous caller left her a voice mail thanking her for the work she did to help bring the law to fruition.