Another View: Full smoking ban impacts cigar bars, local economy

Letters+to+the+editor

By Jay Rosloff
Owner, 66 Cigar

A strict countywide smoking ban would likely stub out my business, the 66 Cigar bar and shops in Sunset Hills and Crestwood.

Since just such a ban was placed on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election — a ban that has since been thrown off, but who knows when it will be back again — I  have had the following conversation about a dozen times a day:

Customer: “That’s stupid. Everyone who comes here wants to smoke. They expect smoke. Why are ‘they’ doing this?”

Me: “Because ‘they’ believe they know better than you.”

Customer: “But that’ll put you out of business, won’t it?”

Me: “Probably. Me and a bunch of other shops, too.”

You see, there’s no way to compete with online stores if we can’t offer a place for people to meet. It’s a shame that neighborhood cigar shops are being treated like an enemy.

My customers — all over 21, at least one over 100 —  include judges, plumbers, house painters, doctors and dentists, police chiefs, labor leaders, car salesmen, pastors, business owners, information-technology pros, lawyers, accountants, retirees, soldiers, bankers, personal trainers, theology students, college professors, insurance brokers and “Joe and Jane six-packers.”

It’s a community where Tea Partiers and Democratic Socialists can meet and find things they agree on.

Then there are the financial ramifications, in addition to wiping the investments of shop owners.  Cigars generate a lot of tax money for the state, county and individual towns.

Sunset Hills and Crestwood each have a single cigar store. So do Valley Park and Ferguson, Maplewood and Florissant. There’s a couple in Chesterfield, and three more spots in Clayton. We are all small (micro, actually) businesses, yet we generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, not to mention the thousands in goods we purchase from other local stores. Also please consider that smoking events generate tens of thousands more for charities. BackStoppers, Responder Rescue, local schools and, ironically, various disease-specific societies will be without our assistance.

Therefore, I ask the voters of St. Louis County to reject any smoking ban in the future that does not include an exemption for cigar shops.

It may not be on your ballot this November, but it is an issue that probably won’t go away.