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Cook County smoking ban has some owners fuming
Ban begins Thursday, unless your town already has a policy of its own

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Daily Herald
by ROB OLMSTEAD

Jester's Lounge, at Rand Road and Route 53, is the kind of place smokers and drinkers live for.

Perfectly dark inside with pool tables and faux stone wall decor, it's conveniently open at 7 a.m. for those third-shift workers who want to grab an after-work beer, relax with a Marlboro and not have to be bothered by pesky things like spouses and sunlight.

Until tomorrow, that is.

Oh, the dim interior and the beer will still be there. But if you want to smoke, you'll have to go outside. Fifteen feet from the door, if you please.

It's not that Ray Laning, the part-owner and manager of Jester's, is one of those new-agey types. Instead, this healthy reform is brought to you by the home of smoke-filled rooms: Cook County government.

 
Ted Aretos, 27, of Algonquin says he and his friends might be looking for a new bar after Jester’s Lounge in Palatine follows the countywide ban. (Bob Chwedyk/bchwedyk@dailyherald.com
 
 
Starting Thursday, an ordinance passed by the county board bans smoking indoors everywhere in Cook County, except those cities and towns that have passed their own smoking regulations or opted not to adopt the county's measure.

And it's that lack of uniformity that has Laning hot.

"How do you not make this a level playing field?" he asked from his bar in unincorporated Cook County near Palatine.

When Palatine instituted its own smoking ban earlier this year, Laning saw his business increase 30 percent with smokers driven from Palatine bars. Not only does he expect that surplus to disappear, but he expects about 30 percent of his regular business to leave with it, perhaps up Rand Road to Lake County, where a smoking ban is being debated but hasn't yet come to fruition.

Nancy Kuknyo is in complete agreement. She manages Furlongs Pub in Palatine, and before the villagewide smoking ban was instituted there, enjoyed a healthy evening business from commuters who stopped by on their way home from work.

"We've really pretty much completely lost that," Kuknyo said.

Her business has gone to Jester's or across the street to Trackside, the bar on the grounds of Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, where smoking is still allowed, and will be Thursday. But spokesman Dan Leary of Arlington Park said they've seen no windfall, in part because, in cooperation with Arlington Heights, they've severely restricted smoking there, driving some of their betting parlor business to an off-track site in Niles.

Kuknyo, like Laning, doesn't oppose a smoking ban in concept, but wants it across the state so bars like hers don't get caught in a nonsmoking pocket next to joints where puffing is still OK.

"It really, in my opinion, was not done fairly," said Kuknyo.

"Originally, yes, I would have liked to have done it so it applied everywhere," said Mike Quigley, the Chicago Democratic commissioner who championed the smoking ban. "And I would have liked to pre-empt the city of Chicago to be honest."

Chicago's smoking ban doesn't go into full effect until 2008.

But Quigley had to get legislation changed in Springfield just to get what he could and he said the benefits to workers in bars and restaurants will show the ordinance's worthwhile nature.

Business traffic flows will even out too, he predicted, once nonsmokers find and start patronizing establishments where smoking is prohibited.

Matt Maloney also sympathizes with businesses. He'd like to see a statewide ban, too.

But to Maloney, the director of health policy for the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago, it's the health of bar and restaurant workers that takes priority.

According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 22,700 to 69,600 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year.

While some say workers can choose if they want to work in a smoking environment, Maloney doesn't buy it.

"As far as working, it's not that simple. They don't have a choice in where they can work," Maloney said.

Someone who needs to work can't just pick up and quit - or turn down a job - because there's smoking there, Maloney said.

"Often time these (food and beverage industry) workers are the ones that are less likely to have insurance," Maloney said, meaning the burden of paying for their health ailments falls on taxpayers.

"That's been our primary argument all along: These ordinances are about protecting workers," Maloney said.

Carol Planz apparently doesn't need the help. The nonsmoking bartender at Jester's said she knew coming in that the place had smoking, and she's fine with it.

"To me, I think that the smokers need a place to go," she said.

Ted Aretos, 27, of Algonquin, said while puffing on a smoke at Jester's that he wasn't all that broken up about the ban. He already can't smoke in the town where he lives and he really smokes only when he drinks.

But he did concede that when he goes out with friends, he might seek out a smoking place, leaving Jester's high and dry.

"We might even go out of the way," he said.



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