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Wednesday, May 5,2010

Ashtray shrine

On its first day, smoking ban brings frustration, fresh air

by Neal McNamara

On Saturday night at around 8 inside Piazzano’s restaurant and bar in north Lansing, the Alabama Crimson Tide girls’ softball team closed a scoreless first inning against the Tennessee Vols, and bartender John DeMarco inhaled smoke-free air for the first time in many years.

“It’s a breath of fresh air,” he said of the smoking ban that went into effect just 14 hours earlier.


An added bonus for DeMarco, a nonsmoker: He no longer has to swab dirty ashtrays at the end of the night. After Piazzano’s closed early Saturday morning, DeMarco said he stacked up all the ashtrays on the bar as a sort of “shrine” to the smoking ban. As he looked at them, he pondered how he would never have to clean them again.


“It was kind of surreal,” he said.


Frustration, relief, forgetfulness and acquiescence were a few of effects felt in the area over the first day of the smoking ban.


DeMarco said that on Saturday, two people had lit up cigarettes inside (one was an employee, the other a patron), both of whom had just plumb forgot about the ban. “No smoking” signs were posted conspicuously throughout the premises.


At the Second Stage bar on State Road in DeWitt Township, Fred (he didn’t want to give his last name) expressed “frustration” over the ban. He said — and a bartender confirmed — that a couple of the bar’s regulars refused to come out because they could not smoke.


“I’m
frustrated with what the governor and anyone else tells you to do,”
said Fred, a smoker for more than 30 years. “It’s not anger.”


When asked if he was enjoying the smokefree air, Fred seemed to grow more frustrated.


“The
smoke-free air? That’s not something that comes into a man’s mind, or a
person’s mind,” he said. And, anyway, he said the Center Stage has one
of the best air filtration systems in the area. Fred was also concerned
over who would play Keno, and sit at the bar and socialize and tip the
bartenders if all the smokers stayed home. Why would he come out, he
asked, if he could just sit at home with a beer and his cigarettes?


“They should have left it up to the bar owner — he knows his business, he knows his clientele,” he said.


As
the sun was setting Saturday, and a few storm clouds approached from
the west, Marshall Simpson exited the Unicorn Tavern in Old Town and
lit up a cigarette. A smoker for about 40 years, he did not really have
any complaints about the ban. He said he saw it coming 20 years ago
when the government started ticketing people for not wearing seatbelts.


“It’s actually a good thing for those who don’t smoke,” he said. “My choices, someone else shouldn’t have to pay for.”


But, come the harsh cold and snow of winter, Simpson chuckled, he might complain a little.


A
block of so away at Spiral Video Dance Bar, smokers obeyed the new law,
both inside and on the patio. But new arrivals had to work their way
through customers in large clumps taking smoke breaks on the front
steps.


Groundskeeper
Cliff Carrigo groused to manager Darren Canejo about the butts he would
have to clean up. “You need to buy a bunch of smoking urns,” he told
him.




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