Last updated on 2011.01.23
Father Tim celebrates the apparent decline of vice in South Dakota. The Northern Plains Anglican reads in that Sioux Falls paper that video lottery revenue in the three weeks following implementation of the voter-approved indoor smoking ban dropped 19.1%. Good riddance to bad money, says the good shepherd:
...I would rather pay a clearly stated income or property tax than depend upon state-sponsored gambling or "sin taxes' to fund public services. Yes, these gadgets probably keep my taxes lower. But they also exploit people at points of weakness and smack of hypocrisy: we say we don't want people smoking or gambling but then budget public revenue expectations from those behaviors [Rev. Timothy L. Fountain, "Tumbling Vice: Smoking Ban Cutting into Video Lottery Play, Too," Northern Plains Anglicans, 2010.12.26].
Gambling may be down, but overall, bars and restaurants enjoyed a boost in November. The November sales and use tax report from the Department of Revenue shows "eating and drinking places" doing 8.1% more business last month than in November 2009. Could it be that more people like going to smoke-free restaurants, just as I suggested back in November?
Now the gains in sales may not fully replace the loss in gambling revenues for the state and for bar owners. but if bar and restaurant owners have to make their money the old-fashioned way—earning it through good service and good food rather than simply cashing in on addictive behavior—won't we all be richer?
Other noteworthy observations from Peter Harriman's report on the changes brought by the smoking ban:
At one end of the smoking spectrum is Paul Wiche, 80, one of Pyper's compatriots munching peanuts at Ken's Korner.
"I've been coming here for years, and I don't smoke," he says. But the restraint of individual freedom in his neighborhood bar is a prickly subject. Wiche notes the establishments along Phillips Avenue that offer outdoor seating.
"They better not let them smoke outside next summer," he snaps [Peter Harriman, "Ban Changing Bar Culture in S.D." that Sioux Falls paper, 2010.12.26].
Yes, because those darned yuppies shouldn't get to have any fun, either... even if smoking outside is entirely legal.
Raquel Olson, 34, is close to the other end of the spectrum. A former smoker, who, even after she quit acknowledged "if people were going" to a smoky bar, "then I would go anyway," Olson was enjoying an evening out with friends in the clear air at Nutty's North. Sitting on her lap was her daughter, Kaliope, 17 months.
"I don't have to feel bad about her being in here," Olson said [Harriman, 2010.12.26].
Nothing to feel bad about at all... other than the fact you're bringing your baby daughter to a bar. But wait—maybe bringing kids and families to bars is a victory for family values: folks are a lot less likely to misbehave if there are little kids around, aren't they?
At Tinner's Bar and Grill, 449 W. 69th St., video lottery has been down a bit since the smoking ban went into effect, beverage sales are about the same and food sales jumped an impressive 25 percent, according to owner Gordy Lyng [Harriman, 2010.12.26].
With the smoke gone, people can actually taste the food. Hmm... in some places, that might not be good for business.
While I agree that the smoking ban is a very positive development, citing restaurant revenue from November 2010 vs. November 2009 may not really mean much. Businesses of all kinds have had a much better 2010 than 2009 due the improving economy (thank you President Obama!). How do the numbers stack up from October 2010 to November 2010?
Let's stack those November numbers with the October numbers for eating and drinking places:
According to those figures, our bars and restaurants had lower taxable sales this past November than in October 2010, but the Oct-Nov drop was much less than the comparable monthly drop in 2009. I don't know the restuarant industry well, but perhaps bars and restaurants always see a drop from October to November, given there's one less day (all things being equal, that's 3% less right there) and perhaps less dining out due to Thanksgiving family dinners at home(?).
I can anecdotally confirm from my mom's waitress job at the diner that colder weather also keeps people home, so that could also help explain a cyclical drop from fall to winter months. Anyway, I do think it is relatively safe to say that bars and restaurants are not going to disappear from the landscape due to lack of customers because of the smoking ban. Thanks for digging up those additional numbers Cory!
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