Three years after pushing for a smoke-free state, the Illinois General Assembly is considering two bills that would allow smoking in select businesses with liquor licenses and could bring more revenue to the state.
Under House Bill 1310, local liquor control commissions could issue smoking licenses to eligible businesses that gain most of their revenue from liquor sales. Meanwhile, House Bill 171 would allow qualifying businesses to have smoking in isolated ventilated smoking rooms.
A local bar owner, who remembers the effect the Smoke Free Illinois Act had on business, said he would welcome the chance to apply for a smoking license.
Tom McAuliffe, 60, owner of Durbin’s, said he lost five to 10 percent of his business after the law went into effect Jan. 1, 2008.
“(The business) just never came back either,” said McAuliffe, who has other locations in Burbank, Palos Hills, Tinley Park, Frankfort and Midlothian.
McAuliffe said he took a hit because “some people, the only time they smoke is when they drink, when they’re in a bar.”
He said many customers didn’t want to brave the weather during the cold months, so instead of taking a smoke outside of the bar, they just went home.
McAuliffe said he would apply for licenses for all of his six bars if given the opportunity.
“I think it would bring in a lot more business," he said. "… It would get back normal."
Bleeker’s event planner and manager Hilary Sterk, 24, had a different view on the new laws. Although the Illinois Gaming Board suggested the changes could have a positive impact on revenue, Sterk said it would make no difference to her business.
Sterk said if given the opportunity to apply for a smoking license, Bleeker’s “probably wouldn’t.”
“I think it’s better off without the smoking inside,” Sterk said.
According to her, the 2008 smoking ban “did not affect business at all,” because smokers who patronize Bleeker’s are able to smoke outside in the beer garden, and they do so even when it’s cold outside.
House Bill 171 was recently assigned to the Executive Committee. Both bills are currently under consideration by the Illinois General Assembly.