Showing posts with label smoking ban in bars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label smoking ban in bars. Show all posts

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Controlling A Killer

Cigarette smoking kills over 440,000 Americans annually

Amherst will soon join a growing list of Massachusetts municipalities that have raised the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 and yes, that includes the increasingly popular electronic vapor variety (e-cigarettes).

In addition new Board of Health regulations will ban the sale of "blunts" outright, and place tighter restriction on cigars:  no sales of single cigars, with a minimum price of $5 on any package of 2 or more units.

Back in 1999 Amherst was the first community in the state to ban smoking in the workplace.  Being a college town Amherst has more than its share of (dive) bars, which are of course a "workplace".  Thus exploded the "Smoking Ban in Bars War", which raged for an entire year.

Bar owners are not the most genteel of the small business crowd, so they fought the ban with as much tenacity as the Viet Cong.  But once the Board of Health started fining the bars and the Select Board reluctantly agreed to pull liquor licenses, the battle ended.  

These days people forget it was even an issue.  Considering tobacco products kill five times as many Americans annually as alcohol it's about time the legal age was raised to that same standard.

The Board of Health voted at their Thursday meeting to move forward with the new draft regulations and scheduled a public hearing for April 9.  Let's hope it's far more civil than those of 15 years ago.

Probably not looking forward to new stricter regulations

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Banned in Amherst

Probably the #1 purveyor of expanded polystyrene in Amherst, but America runs on it

 UPDATE Wednesday morning:  As Brookline goes ...

Based on a distinct lack of pre-Town Meeting buzz, I feel safe predicting the request for a ban on expanded polystyrene by the Recycling and Refuse Management Committee (article #9) will easily pass our esteemed legislative body, especially since it only require a majority vote.

Perhaps another reminder of how hard it is to get zoning items passed that also benefit the general public at large but may, in a narrow sense, inconvenience a few neighbors. A two thirds vote is a very high hurdle.

And it's not like Amherst government is leading the charge on this issue as the majority of impacted businesses and our institutes of higher education have already ditched expanded polystyrene.

A far cry from a dozen years ago when the Amherst Board of Health started the 'Smoking Ban in Bars War', a huge controversy that played out for a year, and is now so completely accepted statewide that most people forget what an epic battle it was.

My farmer friends would probably describe this current ban as "locking the barn door after the horse is gone," or my more colorful air force friends would dub it a "milk run". 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shock and awe campaign

A couple hours after hearing Chief Livingstone report on the effectiveness of the bylaw fine increase for noise and alcohol violations, Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe floated another potentially potent weapon in the war on inappropriate behavior: license review.

After all, she points out, the Amherst Select Board members are all duly sworn in by the state as "liquor commissioners" so perhaps it's time to hold businesses responsible for activities that promote bad behavior.

Ten years ago when bars (the same two she is now referencing, one of them under different management) flagrantly violated the new controversial smoking ban and were laughing off $50 tickets for infractions, the Select Board threatened to suspend common victullar (food handling) or liquor licenses to those businesses not getting the message.

Compliance quickly followed and is now the accepted norm statewide.

The Bully comes out swinging

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The pipes, the pipes are calling...

So besides hosting our 10th and 20th business founding anniversary party and the occasional visits I made earlier on while still a full-time Umass student, my most vividly memory about Charlie's Bar in downtown Amherst was the strategic role it played in the most heated political engagement of my entire career--the 'smoking ban in bars' battle.

Owner Rich Slobody was a long-time friend and one of my very first karate students joining up the day we opened in 1982. Rich is an experienced savvy businessman but also a law-an-order kind of guy who may grumble about the rules but follows them to the letter. He was also at the time a volunteer duly authorized Hampshire County deputy sheriff under my favorite cousin Sheriff Bob Garvey.

So in 1998 when the Amherst Health Department extended the smoking ban to bars and all Hell was breaking loose, Charlie's instantly conformed--the only bar in town to do so. Other bar owners carried on like that scene in Frankenstein where the villagers boisterously head toward the castle with pitchforks and torches in hand.

I instantly wrote an Amherst Bulletin column (one of many) in support of the ban and as a result was already receiving threatening Anon phone calls and a note written on a napkin left under the windshield wiper of my car.

At the time Dr. Valerie Steinberg was Board of Health chair and she had the typical small-frame runners physique. I made it a point to attend all the public meetings sitting in the front row in case things got physical, which in a few cases it almost did. The smell of alcohol and heated rhetoric makes for a disconcerting combination.

Town Meeting initially passed overwhelmingly an advisory article supporting the ban, but Town Manager Barry Del Castilho was less than enthusiastic and Select Board vice chair Hill Boss, a smoker, was downright rude.

Meanwhile Charlie's became the target of a boycott. Charlies's was the kind of bar you may start or finish a night of bar hopping rather than settle in for the night, so if you had other bars along the way suggesting they should be shunned for the good of the industry--it had impact.

Rich reported a loss of $10,000 that first summer because of a steep decline in patronage.

Another barowner filed a Town Meeting advisory article declaring the Board of Health ban went "too far" and variances should be allowed. The Select Board supported the article. After an hour of heated debate, it failed by almost 2-1. At that point even the wishy-washy Select Board came around.

And the Board of Health started playing hardball: issuing fines and pulling food permits which automatically voided the alcohol licenses issued by the Select Board. The resistance crumbled.

Rich sold the bar a few years ago and can't remember the last time I was there. But I'll always remember those gloomy dark days when the ban was besieged from all sides and it looked like the bullies would win. Charlie's was the only bright light.

And now they're--like all those clouds of smoking ban acrimony--just a memory.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

No, sometimes they don't.

So I’m rarely if ever stunned into silence by a reporter –especially when my caller ID gives me a few seconds advance warning.

I knew something was wrong late this morning when I answered the phone (something I don’t always do) and she robotically rattled off: "Phyllis Lehrer, Daily Hampshire Gazette/Amherst Bulletin,” …pregnant pause--and way more personably, "How are you Larry?”

I’ve only known Phyllis for, oh, 25 or 30 years--and after the first 10 or 15 she stopped rattling off the routine, ‘on the record’ reporter ID (besides, she’s a columnist). Phyllis wanted to discuss the sudden, tragic death of Eugene O’Neil, age 47, a former business neighbor of mine in South Amherst for many, many, years. And that stunning news was news to me.

He opened the Amherst Ale House, a townie bar, in South Amherst after Lenny Pratt moved his (townie) package store a couple hundred yards down the road. Back then (the late 1980's early 90’s) I was working 70-80 hours a week, as was he, so we would cross paths at least daily (not too mention nightly).

We had that mutual respect that comes from common folk working long and hard at what they love to do.

But then in 1999 we parted ways. I was a loud spokesperson (back when I only had a Amherst Bulletin Column) for the smoking ban in bars. Amherst inaugurated its ban just after the Northampton Board of Health crumbled under the withering fire of bully barowners.

At the time the Amherst Board of Health committee chair was a female physician (perhaps 99 pounds soaking wet); and when a consortium of male barowners dared to use a Martin Luther King Jr. quote to kick off their aggressive ‘repeal the smoking ban campaign’ I engaged full throttle.

The ban, just barely, held. Gene sold his beloved bar business, and I’m sure by the glares he gave me over the past ten years that he partially blamed me.

Last September his twins started attending the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in the same class as my 7-year-old daughter Kira. We had one of those awkward moments while picking up our kids when for a brief moment neither of us knew quite what to do.

I tentatively held out my right hand saying, “No hard feelings?” And, smiling, he shook it and responded in kind.

When Phyllis called I was heading out the door to pick up my 2-year-old daughter, who will also someday attend the Chinese Charter School. Jada had just yesterday started partial daycare at a state approved home in Hadley and I’m told the second day is the worst.

When I arrived, still reeling from the awful news, the sweet caregiver was cradling my somewhat distraught daughter whispering, “See, I told you: Daddy’s always come back”.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys

So in spite of spelling my name wrong (it’s Kelley with two e’s) and number of appearances on Bill O’Reilly (it was exactly two, plus one on The Today Show) the article came out okay, although I find the title a little odd.

I was a little worried after I went to the The Buzz website to check out the publication figuring by the articles, ads, and hip title it targets 18-25 year olds. Not that in my graying years I can’t still relate to that dynamic age group.

Instead of mentioning “multiple times” that I’m a karate expert I should have pointed out that in the 35 years as a black belt I have never once used martial arts outside of a sporting or teaching context. Although last week I came very close to engaging a moving automobile.

I should have added to my socially liberal list that I’m pro women’s right to chose, and I alienated many of my conservative compatriots by strongly supporting the smoking ban in bars (voted most controversial issue of the year in 1999 by the Amherst Bulletin) where Amherst was in the forefront of something now considered routine.

Perhaps the title Lonesome Cowboy comes from a President Reagan reference or, of course, my final quote. Oddly when Mr. Peters first contacted me via email at the beginning of May he seemed to be doing an article on conservatives as in the pleural sense:

“Mainly, we've decided to do a story about the conservative population in Western Mass simply because we rarely, if ever, read about conservative culture in this area. We're hoping to shed some light on the conservatives that do exist in this area, and discuss their engagement with the local political process.”

Maybe I was the only one they could find? Makes me even lonelier…