It's been years in the making, and the controversy was (and still is) high, but I think we all knew deep down it was only a matter of time before Wisconsin imposed a state-wide indoor smoking ban, joining 25 other states.
Come on, if the government is talking about upping the tax on soft drinks, of course this day was bound to come.
In May of this year lawmakers reached a deal that would prohibit smoking in virtually all workplaces, including restaurants and taverns. But, perhaps because of the alleged strong opposition from the Tavern League of Wisconsin and to avoid pushing the already damaging effects of the recession on Milwaukee's local businesses even further, lawmakers agreed to give it some time.
The ban doesn't officially start until July 5, 2010, although many new and existing establishments have opted to snuff the smoke early in preparation.
But for those hazy places where the smoke still lingers, the countdown begins. Or does it?
A recent article in the Chicago Tribune explains that there are some bar owners in Illinois that allow, if not encourage, their patrons to light up freely, despite the state's 2-year-old smoking ban. Of course, breaking the law and getting busted for it always comes with a price, which is why there is a jar labeled "smoking jug" at Chicago's Crowbar Inc. tavern. Apparently owner Pat Carroll got sick of paying fines -- now totaling almost $700 -- for allowing his patrons to puff. Although it's a voluntary donation jar, Carroll is, in a sense, charging his customers to smoke at his bar.
Still, he said, it was better than losing them all together to neighboring Indiana, where they can smoke indoors without legal consequence.
Amazing, isn't it? It makes me wonder what Milwaukee's fate will be once that date comes next summer. The police can't possibly monitor every bar in Brew City at once, so it will inevitably come down to the discretion of individual bar owners.
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