The 2011 Kansas Legislature made no changes to the statewide smoking ban enacted in the 2010 session, but other states and communities around the U.S. are beginning to recognize that smoking bans hurt businesses and reduce tax revenues. Some communities are rolling back or rejecting smoking bans and a Kansas bar owner is helping make it happen.
The American Beverage Licensees association recognized Sheila Martin, owner of the Top Hat private club in Hutchinson, as the Kansas Retailer of the Year at their annual convention in Milwaukee Tuesday.
The award is given annually to recognize and honor dedicated members of ABL’s affiliates. Phil Bradley, CEO of the Kansas Licensed Beverage Association (KLBA), an ABL affiliate, said he nominated Martin because she is an extraordinary example of people sacrificing their own resources to help defend the rights of others.
Sheila told a rally in Topeka in April that the battle isn’t about smoking. “The fight is going on. It’s physical. It’s in the trenches for property rights. This is not about smoking; it’s about your property rights. We do not want to be New York. We do not want the mayor telling you, you can’t have sugar.“
“We’re going to protect property rights because that’s what this country was built on,” Martin said.
“She’s working not just for people all over the state but now for people all over the nation,” Bradley said. “She’s being called on more and more by people who are referring her by word of mouth. People call and say, ‘Sheila, I don’t know you but such and such told me about you, I need your help.”
“My ‘boots on the ground’ campaign is getting the locals connected and getting them up to speed on tactics. Then I get the info out to the nationwide fighters,” Martin said in a recent email to KansasWatchdog.
Bradley said Martin and others give him hope for better protection of property rights. “Elected officials are listening to them and deciding that there are economic consequences of the bans and there are businesses where you can allow your patrons to do the kinds of legal things they want to do — and it’s OK for the community. Most importantly for the first time ever we have people who are overturning or modifying existing bans. It’s a long road ahead but I’m very please with what’s happening.”
Martin’s efforts have no direct benefit on her business because her bar is already exempt from the statewide smoking ban. Top Hat is a private club established before the cutoff date specified in the statewide ban legislation.
Smoking bans are an affront to personal liberties and just don’t make sense according to Martin. “Smokers do not ‘get used to not smoking in a bar,’ they simply buy beer at the liquor store and go home or to a friend’s home.”
“Liquor stores are doing great, but they don’t collect the extra 10% liquor excise tax that the bars do,” Martin said. “Even with recent huge increases in liquor prices and the resulting price hike at point of sale, Kansas is down on revenue (from liquor sales in bars).”
Smoking ban proponents claimed that bans would not hurt business in Kansas but business closures and tax revenue data paints a different picture.
Illinois and Michigan both reported dramatic declines in gaming revenue after implementing statewide smoking bans. Since 2008, when the smoking ban was put in place there Illinois has seen a 32 percent decline in gaming revenue that has cost the state about $800 million in tax revenue.
Michigan is also experiencing a reduction in state revenue from gaming in bars and other private businesses, down about $80 million dollars since their smoking ban went into effect.
Kansas exempted its casinos from the smoking ban to prevent state gaming losses. A bill presented this year would have removed the casino exemption but failed to make it out of the Legislature.
Bradley said he’s optimistic. “At some point all these businesses are going to understand that whether it’s smoking or hours of operation or parking or patios, these property rights issues are things that they all need to be concerned about. If you help with what’s bothering your neighbor, they’re going to help you with yours.”
“It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
— Samuel Adams