BLOOMINGTON — The City Council’s 5-4 vote to ban smoking in public places was close but for many in Bloomington, the final decision was not a big surprise.
"It was pretty much a done deal," said Jerry Jonen as he worked the counter at Smoker’s Choice in Bloomington. "I’m surprised at how close the vote was."
Several of Jonen’s customers Tuesday morning were dismayed and upset by the decision.
Sandi Alexander of Bloomington said she is frustrated the city is trying to regulate where people can smoke.
"I think they have gone way out of control," Alexander said. "Restaurant owners should be able to make their own decisions about being smoking or nonsmoking."
The council voted down a proposed change to the ordinance that would exempt establishments that hold a tavern liquor license.
It also voted down a proposal change that would exempt taverns for a year after the ban’s Jan. 1, 2007 effective date.
Bloomington offers licenses for restaurants and taverns. In Normal there are only restaurants.
"I was just shocked that they are doing it at the bars," said Laura Barnes of Normal. "I was sure they would let it happen at bars."
Barnes and Lori Schroeder of Bloomington talked about the ordinance Tuesday while they ate their lunch at Eastland Mall.
"I don’t like smoke, but I thought it was too much control," Schroeder added.
Roy Schrock and Wally Yoder thought the council’s vote could have gone either way but they welcomed the final results.
"You couldn’t have made it any closer," Schrock said.
Both said they are looking forward to going to restaurants that are all nonsmoking.
"It always bothered to go into a nonsmoking section and be at the first table, right next to the smoking section," Yoder said.
Sheri Gatto said she is hopeful the ban will mean more people will be interested in signing up for classes to help them quit. Gatto, from OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, said no one signed up for the hospital’s spring smoking cessation classes.
"It would be great if we had to add sections to our next class that starts in July," Gatto said. One-on-one classes also are available through the hospital.
Barbara Taft, an attorney who represents independent bar and restaurant owners in Bloomington, said owners believe there will be some bars and restaurants that will close because of the smoking ban.
"Business owners, undoubtedly, will keep track of their losses and see what effect this has on them," Taft said. "This is going to have an impact."
Jonen is sure this will have an effect on his business as well. As a wholesaler of tobacco products, Jonen said he sells to several bars in town.
"I can’t imagine they will be selling or have a vending machine for cigarettes if people can’t smoke in their places," he added.
How much this will effect his business, Jonen cannot predict.
"We’ll just have to wait and see what happens," Jonen said.
How to help
What: Smoking Cessation Class
When: 6:30 p.m. Mondays from July 17-Aug. 28
Where: OSF St. Joseph Medical Center’s Center for Healthy Lifestyles.
Costs: $99 for the class with $20 returned upon completion.
Compiled by M.K. Guetersloh