Disagreement Persists Over Fort Wayne Smoking Ordinance

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 18, 2010 Updated May 30, 2008 at 5:40 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- One year later, did Fort Wayne make the right call in forcing bars and restaurants to go smoke free?

We hit the streets Friday and found patrons who rave about the change and business owners who claim the costs dwarf any benefits.

Noontime at Wrigley Field Bar and Grill, nary a puff of smoke drifts in the air.

That's perfectly fine with non-smokers Donna Moore and Rose Britton.

Rose Britton/Non Smoker: " I don't like to go out to a bar for lunch, because I smell like smoke when I go back to work.

Neumeyer: " So, that solves that?"

Britton: " Yeah.”

Donna Moore/Likes Smoking Ban: " Most definitely, and you know, it's great to be in a clean environment."

Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of Fort Wayne's ban on smoking in public places.

John Lemon doesn't smoke either, but he doesn't like the government making this call.

John Lemon/Government Stay Out of it: " Just like the seat belt law, it's the same thing, they're taking away our choices as American people, and they shouldn't do that."

Wrigley Field owner Daniel White fought the law change and saw his business drop way off last June and July.

That's when he turned half his place into family dining to counter the attack on his bottom line.

Daniel White/Wrigley Field Owner: " It's not about the alcohol anymore for us, you know, we have to, you know, sell the soft drinks and do what we got to do to stay in business."

White took "Plan B" even further, getting a permit to put in an open-air venue for smokers to try and keep those patrons happy too.

It's allowed the business to rebound and survive.

Neumeyer: " But the owner of Aboite Grill says many bar and restaurant owners aren't so lucky. Loren Fifer says for nearly three dozen of them, the last year has been marked by pain and suffering."

Fifer claims 34 establishments have closed and more are on the verge of going under because of lost revenues caused by the smoking ordinance.

Loren Fifer/Opposes Smoking Ban: " If we get excited in town when a new business opens, and there's 20 new jobs, how about the hundreds of people we've unemployed."

Dr. John Crawford knows there can be a price to pay. He crusaded for the ordinance, and then lost his re-election bid to city council in November.

Dr. John Crawford/Authored Smoking Law: " It's only one of the reasons I lost the race, but it's certainly one of them. And uh, if I knew I was going to lose the race, I would have done it anyway."

Crawford says it was the right thing to do, and that at least a hundred people have told him so since the ban went into effect.

There’s no question, the ban has led to an improvement to public health, and an increase in frustration levels for critics who long for the way things used to be.

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