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Smoking ban Monday

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Workers building the new ethanol plant just across the border in Iowa have given good business on weekdays to Lyle Liquor.

The plant site is a half mile west of Lyle, a small border town on the Minnesota side. The workers, who include many smokers, are a big part of the bar’s clientele Monday through Thursday, said Robin Meyer, one of the bar’s owners.

As the state’s smoke-free ban takes effect Monday on virtually all indoor workplaces, Meyer said it will be a "flip of the coin" on whether her bar loses customers to Iowa for the ability to smoke inside.

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"Will we lose them to St. Ansgar (Iowa), you know, 10 miles down the road?" Meyer asked. "Now I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out next week."

Either way, Meyer’s not a fan of the ban, saying, "I’m totally against it." She said she hopes the state will look at it again if businesses show a decline in revenue.

Brochures listing Mower County’s smoke-free dining options still sat available this week in the Austin Holiday Inn lobby.

But that list can be thrown out now that almost all businesses, including restaurants and bars, have to become smoke-free.

In the past five years, Austin city leaders twice rejected efforts to create a local smoke-free ban, with the most recent in summer 2006.

Those opposed argued that businesses and clubs should have the right to decide whether to allow smoking. Some said any ban should come from the state.

Proponents of a smoke-free ban say the move will protect the health of customers and employees from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

Minnesota’s smoke-free law has been a hot topic at the bar, said Shelley Thompson, an assistant general manager for Torge’s Live at the Holiday Inn.

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Many even say they’re going to use the ban to quit smoking, Thompson said.

Thompson doesn’t think the ban will hurt Torge’s. In fact, Thompson — a mother, nonsmoker and runner — is excited for the change, despite admitting she has mixed feelings about the state forcing businesses to be smoke-free.

With 15 years spent in the restaurant/bar industry, Thompson said she doesn’t mind smokers and has gotten used to working in a smoky environment.

Thompson, though, is looking forward to not smelling like smoke after work and needing to shower immediately at home.

Wearing a ring for the 300 game he bowled in 1965, Chester Klingfus said prior to league play Wednesday that he smokes like many other bowlers at Echo Lanes in Austin.

But Klingfus doesn’t expect the ban to bother him — even after being told that, along with the lanes, he also won’t be able to smoke in the bowling alley’s bar.

"I can go without it," Klingfus said.

Lana Clark, a nonsmoker who bowls on Wednesdays with her team, said she prefers a state ban over a local law. While a teammate — who didn’t want to be interviewed — smoked a cigarette, Clark said she doesn’t think people will quit smoking because of the ban but it will be a good change.

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"I’m looking forward to it, actually," Clark said.

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