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Alcohol sales in Savannah aren't hurt by smoking ban, analysis finds

Opponents of smoking in bars study Savannah

Saturday, June 1, 2013 10:08 PM
Last updated 11:16 PM
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Alcohol tax revenues from Savannah, Ga., whose bars went smoke-free in 2011, increased slightly more than sales taxes overall compared with the year before the ban went into effect, according to a data analysis by The Augusta Chronicle.

Owner Jeremy LaFontaine tends the bar at Joe's Underground, which went smoke-free in January.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Owner Jeremy LaFontaine tends the bar at Joe's Underground, which went smoke-free in January.

Though that doesn’t directly reflect what happened to bar business in Savannah, those pushing a similar ordinance for Augusta bars say the analysis shows that the smoking ban didn’t hurt. Opponents such as Augusta Commission member Wayne Guilfoyle said that more years of data would be needed to gauge an effect and that the issue is really about the infringement on individual rights.

One owner whose bar went smokeless voluntarily in January said that initially seemed to help business and that overall the reception has been good.

Restaurants and other places that might attract people under age 18 went smoke-free under a statewide ban in 2005, but bars and other places where adults congregate were exempted. Since then, cities, including Savannah and Athens, have banned smoking in bars and other places. An effort to add Augusta bars failed last year.

One of the most commonly cited reasons against instituting a smoking ban in bars is that owners fear it would hurt business. People both for and against smoking bans cite studies that back up their position that it will or will not hurt business.

In an effort to find objective data, The Chronicle requested alcohol tax revenues and sales tax revenues from the city of Savannah for 2010-12, covering the year before, during and after the ban went into effect. Overall, sales tax revenue increased 9 percent, and although beer tax revenue increased 6 percent during that period, wine tax revenue rose 11 percent, liquor tax revenue went up 14 percent and mixed-drink tax revenue rose 16 percent. Officials cautioned that the taxes are paid by wholesalers that sell to bars and that other factors, such as the economy, likely had a much bigger impact than the smoking ban.

Jennifer Anderson, the chairwoman of the BreathEasy Augusta coalition pushing for an Augusta ordinance, calls the results “amazing,” however. She acknowledges it is not proof the ban helped bar business.

“But it is certainly not a negative thing,” Anderson said. “I guarantee you, if it were lower, everybody else would be saying that was the cause.”

Guilfoyle said five years’ worth of data before the ban would be needed to determine whether the numbers suggest a larger trend. It boils down to taking away the right of a person to do something that is lawful, he said, and the ban would affect not only bars but also other places such as warehouses, even for the business owners themselves.

“You’re telling the owner he can’t even smoke in his own building,” Guilfoyle said. A ban could affect places that aren’t even indoors, such as golf courses, he said.

“When you’re on a golf course and you’re playing golf, there’s nothing better than a fine cigar and a cold toddy among friends,” Guilfoyle said. “And now that is going to be taken away.”

Proponents for an ordinance said it is about rights – the rights of workers, in disproportionately blue-collar jobs, to work in a place where they don’t have to inhale second-hand smoke. Anderson rejects the argument that those workers could just go work somewhere else.

“There are individuals in this town who cannot find another job, and they’re having to sacrifice their health for the sake of putting food on the table,” she said.

Joe’s Underground decision to go smoke-free in January helped business for the first couple of months, owner Jeremy LaFontaine said. Since then, bar business has fallen off sharply all over, he said, probably because fewer people are going out to avoid getting caught up in roadblocks around town during Operation Thunder, a crackdown on traffic violations in Richmond County.

“If I thought we were suffering solely because we went smoke-free and everywhere else is not, then I would reconsider my options,” LaFontaine said. “But overall I’d say we get a pretty good positive feedback. We do trivia on Thursday nights, and I feel like we usually get a pretty good crowd. And most of them, if not all, would not be there if there was smoke.”

For Anderson and other advocates, Savannah’s experience bolsters their argument for others to join Joe’s Underground.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer for the public health part,” she said. “But it’s also nice that it’s good for business.”

SAVANNAH ALCOHOL TAX REVENUES

Alcohol sales tax revenue increased slightly after bars in Savannah went smoke-free in 2011. A year-by-year look at tax revenue from 2010 (before the ban), 2011 (during implementation) and 2012 (ban in effect).

 201020112012Difference from 2010 to 2012
Beer taxes$1,929,243.76$1,945,959.95$2,042,470.25$113,226.49 (+6 percent)
Liquor taxes$349,877.20$408,906.61$397,135.93$47,258.73 (+14 percent)
Wine taxes$434,181.65$435,455.87$484,049.86$49,868.21 (+11 percent)
Mixed-drink tax$902,721.08$965,407.65$1,048,434.88$145,713.80 (+16 percent)
Sales tax$38,934,659.69$40,808,776.79$42,623,356.64$3,688,696.95 (+9 percent)
Total tax revenue$42,550,683.38$44,564,506.87$46,595,447.56$4,044,764.18 (+10 percent)
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Bodhisattva
5956
Points
Bodhisattva 06/02/13 - 07:11 am
5
4
What kind of nonsense is this "study"?

Propaganda? Bull? Nonsense? How about the old what does it have to do with the price of tea in China cliché? This isn't a study, it's comparing a set of numbers that vaguely have something in common. If you compared growth in same store sales from 2010-2012 and figured in the variable for the difference for inflation and the growth in the economy you might have something. What you have here is a bunch of nonsense by a group of anti-smoking Nazis that will stop at nothing to get their way. If it gets voted down, they'll keep bringing it up 200 times if necessary. The bunch of nonsense in this story shows they'll throw together any data, whether it's accurate or not, whether it applies or not, no matter what. as long as it's favorable to their point of view. They showed last time by including e-cigarettes, which release nothing but water vapor, that it's not a health issue. It's a power and control issue. They want it their way and will stoop to any measures to win. I may have missed it last time I asked, but please tell me which local bar/restaurant the young (if she's even old enough to work in such an establishment) waitress/actress is in Augusta. I don't get out a lot, but I don't recognize it at all. Evidently it must be hermitically sealed with the amount of smoke that manages to stay in the one area, or it caters to chain smokers and most of them are off camera. The least the anti-smoking Nazis could do is be honest. If we compare the number from 200 restaurants during a recession to 300 restaurants after a recession the tax receipts will be bigger. That will prove not smoking didn't hurt business. They had to interview an awful lot of customers. Or did they?

Little Lamb
45273
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 07:40 am
3
3
Freedom of Association

From the story:

One of the most commonly cited reasons against instituting a smoking ban in bars is that owners fear it would hurt business.

How about liberty? Shouldn't the business owner be allowed to run his business his way as long as everything is out in the open and those under 18 are not allowed inside? This notion that the ban is necessary to protect waitresses is pure bunk. If you don't want to work in second-hand smoke, there are way more non-smoking businesses than there are smoking businesses. Go work there.

Little Lamb
45273
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 07:42 am
2
2
Irrationality

And the smoking banners are way out of line in their efforts to include E-cigarettes in the ban. E-cigarette emissions do not include any of the tars and other residues that may cause lung problems.

Little Lamb
45273
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 07:50 am
2
3
Wholesalers

Hold on a minute here. Look at this quote from the story:

Officials cautioned that the taxes are paid by wholesalers that sell to bars. . . .

Excuse me, but I thought that sales taxes are collected by retailers only. Wholesalers don't submit sales taxes. Sure, wholesalers submit federal and state alcohol taxes, but that's not the same as sales taxes. Also, the alcohol taxes submitted by wholesalers include their sales not only to bars, but also to restaurants, grocery stores, and package stores. One cannot compare the reported figures accurately and fairly.

I'm Back Again
307
Points
I'm Back Again 06/02/13 - 08:33 am
0
0
Bottom line, whether you're
Unpublished

Bottom line, whether you're 12, 22, or 52, you should be able to go to a golf course, restaurant, bar, nite club, strip club, civic center, outdoor arena, or anywhere else you choose without smelling cigarette smoke. I have no problem with your right to smoke, as long as it doesn't infringe upon my right not to. If you can find a way to smoke, so I don't have to smell it, go for it. I could not care any less. But I may want to take my wide to dinner and sit out on the deck. I should be able to sit outside without smelling your smoke. That is why I won't go to Carolina Ale House anymore.
Bottom line: do whatever you want, as long as it doesn't interfere with what I don't want.

itsanotherday1
41877
Points
itsanotherday1 06/02/13 - 06:43 pm
2
1
LL, I beleive at the

LL, I beleive at the beginning of the article it said "alcohol" taxes went up in a proportion similar to sales taxes; so it leads me to believe they were talking about at the wholesale level where the alcohol tax is collected.

That is neither here nor there, I agree with those opposed to bans on legal activity in a privately owned business.

Where I support the ban is on public property where I have a vested interest, and am entitled to breath clean air. I also support bans at palces like gas stations, where I might be compelled to walk inside if the recept printer is out of order or such.

oldredneckman96
5054
Points
oldredneckman96 06/02/13 - 08:30 pm
2
2
Stinking/Smoking
Unpublished

Lets start by agreeing that smoking smells terrible, it makes your clothes, the room’s upholstery, carpet and drapes, just stink. Civilized people don’t like that.
Now, everyone who is honest will agree it is not healthy. Numbers show that less than 25% of Americans smoke, which leaves 75% who do not want to smoke. That is the largest majority on any issue in the country today.
No business is a “private” business that either has employees or is open to the public; it is a “public” business. Public means everyone and the Americans with Disabilities Act means you have to provide a smoke free area for employees and customers.
Wal-Mart became the largest retailer in the world and one secret was that they have been smoke free from the start. Sam knew that everyone shopped and only a few smelly smokers would keep them from his store. If you are a “public” business that wants to make money, every business in every town, every way you can check, getting smoking under control has been a moneymaker.
E-Cigarettes vaporize nicotine and when a person using one exhales they spread this poison around just like cigarettes. Nicotine delivery is the only reason for E-Cigs.
Last, No one has the right to spread poison in pubic. End of story.

jpbrig
170
Points
jpbrig 06/02/13 - 08:57 pm
1
1
What about Liberty

I have a right to clean air. LL's liberties starts where my stops and he can breathe my full share of smoke fill air. All he wants of it.

dichotomy
31990
Points
dichotomy 06/02/13 - 08:57 pm
2
2
There is no reason there

There is no reason there could not be smoking only bars and restaurants staffed and patronized by smokers. No logical reason, no legal reason. It's not much different than gay bars. There are gay bars and those who don't want to patronize them don't go. If you chose to walk on the wild side them have at it. Same thing goes for smoking bars.

oldredneckman96 is a crusader. He starts out with "stink" and then slides in e-cigarettes and nicotine on the last line. E-cigarettes don't stink, don't have tar, the visible "smoke" is water vapor, and NOT ALL e-cig juice has nicotine. A lot of former smokers are using e-juice that has some flavor, duplicates the "hit" in the throat with the water vapor, and DOES NOT have nicotine. It is an effective way to withdraw from real cigarettes. Yes, you can get e-juice with nicotine but the nicotine is inhaled by the smoker and only water vapor is exhaled. Anyway.....which is it oldredneckman.....the stink or the possibility that someone might be inhaling a little nicotine without all the rest of the carcinogens of real cigarettes. Or do you just hate anyone enjoying anything in public and just want ALL of the bars and ALL of the restaurants for YOUR KIND.

This is simply a crusade to deny 25% of the population the right to go out and have a meal and a drink in an environment that they enjoy.

I say again, there is NO LOGICAL REASON why there could not be SMOKING ONLY bars and restaurants.

InChristLove
22459
Points
InChristLove 06/02/13 - 09:10 pm
0
2
OldRedNeckMan, I will agree

OldRedNeckMan, I will agree with you that cigarette smoke stinks but are you insinuating that everyone who smokes is uncivilized? I find that rather harsh, don't you think? I was a smoker for 30 years, been an ex-smoker for one. I seriously don't think I was an uncivilized person all those years.

It is my understanding that the e-cigarette only contains nicotine, which is not a carcinogen (which causes cancer) so where is the harm in the vapor when a person exhales. Nicotine is a substance that addicts the brain to smoking but by itself does not cause cancer so I'm not sure of what the poision you are referring to.

Little Lamb
45273
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 09:22 pm
0
2
Right

jpbrig posted:

I have a right to clean air.

Funny, I must have missed that in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. But both documents declare the right to liberty.

If a person creates a dirty air chamber and keeps the dirty air on his own property and allows adult members of the public to enter the dirty air chamber and breathe it voluntarily; then that person is exercising his constitutional right to liberty. We should salute him. We should boo and hiss on the anti-liberty Jennifer Andersons of this world.

Little Lamb
45273
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 09:28 pm
0
3
Sharia

OldRedneckMan posted:

Lets start by agreeing that smoking smells terrible, it makes your clothes, the room’s upholstery, carpet and drapes, just stink. Civilized people don’t like that.

Well, civilized people don't like people doing genital manipulation on young girls in the name of Islam. Civilized people don't like suicide bombing in the name of Islam. But we've got to learn to tolerate both under the Obama administration.

oldredneckman96
5054
Points
oldredneckman96 06/03/13 - 08:53 am
3
0
Smoking/Stinking
Unpublished

I say that smoking is uncivilized because even the most rude person apologizes if they pass gas in public, a smoker just fires up. And you do need to do a little research, nicotine is a deadly poision.

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