From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 52 - December 25, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Smoking ban draws local heat

by Stephen Crane

A rejuvenated wave of support has developed for a statewide smoking ban after the Joint, Labor, Health and Social Services Committee of the Wyoming state legislature voted 12-3 in support of the ban on Dec. 1. But not everybody supports the proposal, particularly in the Pinedale community, where resistance to government intrusion on individual rights is still held in high regard.

“I feel like, as a bar owner, it should be my choice,” said Pat Bozner, owner of the Corral Bar.

It’s a sentiment echoed by most bar owners in the community.

“If you’re running a business, it ought to be up to each and every person to decide,” said Charlie Golden, owner of the Cowboy Bar.

“I think it should be up to the individual myself,” said Jim Buston, owner of Stockman’s. “Pretty soon, (the government) will be telling you when you can get up and when you can go to bed.”

Currently, no restaurants in Pinedale allow smoking, except for the dual role that Stockman’s serves, which has a bar on one side as well as the restaurant. Counting Stockman’s, Pinedale is home to five alcohol-oriented establishments, including Wind River Brewery. And of the five, four were opposed to the proposed ban, including Rock Rabbit, where smoking is not allowed inside.

“It’s a double-edged sword for me,” said Dan Abernathy, owner of Rock Rabbit. “I hate to see personal rights taken away. I hate to see government interference. But I don’t want to be around it, ya know. I think (being smoke-free) helps create a good environment.”

This is the reason Abernathy chose to keep Rock Rabbit free of indoor smoking. And concerning the ban, the bottom line for Abernathy is that government intrusion.

“Honestly, I would have to oppose (the ban),” he said. “I don’t think the government should tell people what they can and can’t do with their place of business.”

Wind River Brewery has also gone smoke-free since the new owners took over a few months back.

“The reason was, none of (the owners) smoked themselves,” said Richie Strom, resident brewmaster at the brewery. “And two, they felt they were losing business to clientele who didn’t like the smoke.”

Not wanting to speak for the owners themselves, who were unavailable for comment, Strom voiced his support for the proposed ban, though he did acknowledge that the power to make such decisions should be placed in the business-owners’ hands.

For the drinking establishments in the “Bar-muda Triangle” on Pine Street, which includes the Cowboy Bar, Stockman’s and the Corral Bar, owners are worried about the ramifications of such a ban.

“The problem is, I have no room outside,” said Bozner. “My building is adjacent to the alley on one side, so I can’t build anything out that way. I don’t have any room out to the back. And the front is the town sidewalk, so I have no place outside to make a heated smoking area. And I definitely think it would hurt business.”

The outdoor litter that would likely follow such a ban was also a concern for Bozner. There’s also the cost of outdoor heaters and structures for people to utilize if they were forced to light up outside.

“Personally, what I’d do is build a 6-ft. by 6-ft. cubicle for the non-smokers in the back,” said Golden when asked how he’d respond if the ban became law. “If people don’t want to walk into some place, they don’t have to. That’s why I have 13 ashtrays on the bar, and one at every table.”

The Wyoming state legislature is scheduled to vote on the proposal when it resumes work in its January session, and many eyes will be on the outcome when it’s finally determined.

“I really feel like I pay the taxes on my building; I pay the liquor license; I have to buy my liquor from the state; I’m mandated to pay sales tax, and I make the payment on it,” said Bozner. “They should not have the right to tell me, within the law, what I can do here. They’re damaging my business.”

Photo credits:  Stephen Crane

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