Loosened Smoking Rules Not Necessarily Win For Restaurants, Bars

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Smoking in Michigan bars and restaurants has been banned since 2010.

But under a new interpretation of the law out Monday smoking is now acceptable on outdoor patios and rooftops as long as there's no food or drink service.

For Marji Cheadle, co-owner of Dagwood's Tavern and Grill in Lansing, allowing smoking on her bar's patio is not only good for business but also just makes sense.

"As a business owner and a non-smoker I don't want to sell the non-smoker down the road but from a perfect business point of view it makes sense to me to be able to eat, drink, and smoke on a patio with service," she said.

Which is why Cheadle said the new interpretation probably won't have much of an impact on her bar since it doesn't allow for food or drink service in the smoking area.

"If I can smoke and drink on my patio but not have food I've lost some ability to sell to my customer," she said. "If I have to choose one way or the other and take both food and drink off the table I don't think it's beneficial to us."

Justin Winslow, vice president of government affairs with the Michigan Restaurant Association said he supports the new interpretation which gives owners more free range over how to run their establishments.

"We're always supportive of a business owner being able to dictate their own business model and this gives them a little more opportunity," Winslow said.

"However Winslow said he admits he doesn't expect much of an impact from the new interpretation.

"At the end of the day... I think this is going to have minimal effect," he said. "I don't think a lot of our members are going to give up revenue, give up the customer experience of outdoor patio dining for the opportunity of another smoking opportunity."

Winslow also added the new interpretation might create an uneven playing field by giving establishments with patios or rooftops an advantage because they'd have the option to offer smoking sections over bars and restaurants this did not have a patio.

Even so, Cheadle who is a member of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association said while it doesn't go far enough, the new interpretation is a good jumping-off point to address the original 2010 ban.

"It was detrimental to many, many of our members and I think this is a step in the right direction," she said. "I don't think it's a completion of the necessary adjustment to the law."

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