Madison bans smoking in bars, restaurants

/ Source: The Associated Press

City officials voted early Wednesday to outlaw lighting up in bars and restaurants, creating the toughest no-smoking policy in Wisconsin.

The council voted 15-5 to adopt the measure, modeled after ones in California and New York City. It takes effect in July 2005.

“My reaction is a yippee and a yay,” said Gayathri Vijayakumar, 25, a member of the anti-tobacco group Smoke Free Madison.

Tavern owners oppose the ban, saying it could hurt sales.

One owner, Lawrence Schmock of State Bar & Grill, proposed a statewide ban to make sure smokers don’t go to bars in other towns. He said the ordinance could force small businesses to close. “They don’t deserve this,” Schmock said.

In New York, tax receipts from bars and restaurants jumped almost 9 percent in the 10 months after the public smoking ban went into effect, according to a study.

Alderman Mike Verveer worried the ban would send throngs of smokers on to Madison’s downtown sidewalks, which already are crowded on weekend nights.

“This is just going to exacerbate the problems,” Verveer said.