Bar Owners Bristle Over May 1 Smoking Ban

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Kelly Sterling, owner of Kelly's bar in Star Valley, believes that on May 1 her business will take a hit, since customers will no longer be allowed to smoke inside her establishment.

"We are obviously going to have to do an outdoor patio," Sterling said, adding that the state should have allowed businesses to use exhaust valves instead of prohibiting smoking altogether.

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The smoking ban for bars, restaurants and other businesses takes effect May 1, and has many local bar and restaurant owners in the Rim Country upset.

During the November 2006 election, voters passed a smoking ban in all public places as well as an 80-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes.

"We are all going to suffer," Sterling said. Because they are located on tribal land, the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino will be the only bar or restaurant where smoking is allowed in the Rim Country.

Sterling plans to enhance the outdoor patio she now has for smokers, once the ban begins.

Joni Alexander, manager of the Oxbow Saloon, said she is also unhappy with the new law.

"We will comply. We do not have a choice," she said.

She said the Oxbow is in the process of building an extensive outdoor patio for smokers. The patio will include a bar to serve those wishing to light up.

"We have been having this in the works since this bill passed," Alexander said.

The ban will be difficult to enforce once the rodeo season rolls around.

Alexander said employees of the bar will have to take time away from what they are now doing to control the smoking issue.

"It's going to cost us more," she said, adding another doorman for the outside patio will be an additional expense. "I do not know how the smaller businesses will be able to afford it."

She said it is possible the additional cost could be passed on to customers. "We might have to do some price raising for the public."

"I am not happy about (this new law)," said Gaby Jarolimek, a bartender at the Spur Bar in Star Valley. "I personally think it sucks."

The Spur Bar already has a patio that will now be used more often by smokers.

Terry Straughn, manager of the Main Street Grille, said she is OK with the new law.

She pointed to an outdoor patio with portable heaters that seats 78 people.

"We have something that no one else has in this town," she said. "I am ready for this."

She said, if anything, the Main Street Grille will be busier than ever because of the patio, mentioning other patios that are going to be expanded or built will not compare to what her restaurant and bar currently have.

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