Possible Fitchburg Smoking Ban Raises Ire of Bar Owners

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Fitchburg: Thursday morning's rain didn't stop this people from showing up to criticize the idea of expanding Madison's smoking ban to Fitchburg.

Most opponents cited the stunning loss of business that Madison bars are experiencing due to the ban, and they oppose the idea of sending their customers elsewhere to drink and smoke.

Alderman Richard Bloomquist is proposing the smoking ban. He says he has received a lot of comments from citizens, and they support the ban by an overwhelming margin. "We represent the citizens. If the overwhelming public support is one way or another I think we owe it–we should listen to the citizens."

Bloomquist says he wants to hold more listening sessions with the public before he considers drafting a smoking ban.

Fitchburg is one of the border towns where many of Madison's smokers are escaping to for a cigarette and a beer.

The impact of the smoking ban has not been limited to Madison. Many businesses are already feeling the ripple effect.

The smoking ban has been chasing customers to the Great Dane in Fitchburg. "My numbers are up slightly. It's late night so I'm guessing that's what it is," says General Manager Paul Kloss.

The Great Dane also has a location in Madison and Kloss says they've only seen a slight downturn in business. "One of the big factors is the (outdoor) beer garden is still open. The big test is going to be once the inclement weather sets in to see how it impacts business."

Across town Don Bussan is worried about his bowling alleys. Ten Pin Alley is in Fitchburg and business is up slightly, but Bowl-A-Vard Lanes in Madison is suffering. "We gotta layoff some people. It's going to take a hit. It's going to take a big hit. It's going to take us a while to get it back."

Bussan says it's not going to improve when the falls leagues start up. "We've seen a big dramatic drop in league participation in teams signing up."

Bar owners aren't the only ones who feel the effects of the ban. "The trickle down effect is just huge," says Mary Lavine, owner of Bullseye Games.

"We do the pool tables, the dart boards, the jukeboxes and that stuff. We're seeing collections down 30–50% in the city. That's devastating. Where does that money come from?" says Lavine.

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