Minor Thoughts from me to you

Smoking Ban Takes Effect

Madison's smoking ban claimed its first (business) victim yesterday. The Hammer Time bar on Madison's East Side announced that it will be closing on April 15. Bob Tague and Carla Hammerschmidt, the current owners, blame the loss of business, caused by the smoking ban.

The Wisconsin State Journal attempts to spin the story as nothing major -- just another bar, already in financial difficulty, that was forced to close:

But financial difficulties already plagued the location when the current owners ... bought it in June 2004.

When the couple bought the bar, formerly known as Vial's Lake Edge Tavern, the asking price reflected $58,800 in needed repairs, money owed to vendors and back taxes, according to court documents.

But the history of financial difficulties at the location, along with the decision to buy a tavern business after the ban was approved, led some observers Wednesday to doubt the connection between the ban and the shutdown.

It's true, Tague and Hammerschmidt took a risk by buying the bar. It needed repairs, still owed taxes, and the ban had already been approved. This is something to applaud. Had they succeeded in renovating the bar, they would have kept jobs in the neighborhood (possibly creating new jobs along the way) and kept taxes flowing to the City Council.

The Council chose to make that renovation harder than it had to be. Instead of supporting local business, supporting private property rights, and supporting people's moral right to choose whether or not to expose themselves to cigarette smoke, the council chose to hamstring local businesses and limit their competitiveness. As a result, Tague and Hammerschmidt will lose their investment. The bar employees will lose their jobs. And the city of Madison will lose another tax-paying business.

The bar may have failed even without the smoking ban. But the smoking ban made success far harder than it otherwise would have been. It would be nice to have the City Council stand up and take responsibility for the results of their ban. But they won't. It's far easier to make moral stands than to face the results of those stands. And Madison voters have shown that they're perfectly willing to accept that behavior from their Aldermen. Indeed, many Madison voters seem to positively relish doing the same thing.

To those voters: Enjoy your moral certainty. While you're celebrating the success of the ban, I'll be thinking of the employees and employers that you're hurting. One of us has the right to the moral high ground. I'm not certain it's you.

[tags]smoking ban, regulation[/tags]

This entry was tagged. Madison Regulation