PALMER — Bar owners are worried while clean-air advocates are elated this week after Palmer residents decided to end indoor smoking in public.
The rule change means the trio of businesses that still allowed smoking must cease doing so in January 2013 when the law takes effect.
Vote totals show 439 Palmerites favored the ban while 322 voted to oppose it.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Mary Lou Coddington, co-owner of Palmer Bar, said when about passage of Proposition 3. “Eighty percent of our customers don’t even live in the city limits. I couldn’t even vote on it myself.”
But David Cheezem, head of a group of local residents who pushed for the ordinance, said he thinks voters made the right choice.
“I think Palmer can be very proud of itself now for standing up for good health and the right to breathe smoke-free air,” he said. “When you’re breathing secondhand smoke you’re not making that choice, someone else is making that choice for you.”
While some in opposition described the ordinance as taking away freedoms, namely the freedom for business owners to decide whether to allow smoking, Cheezem said the issue is about protecting one particular freedom — the freedom to breathe clean air.
“Palmer is the first in the Valley to embrace this freedom and I think it’s going to continue,” Cheezem said. “We’re going to see this statewide.”
Coddington said she didn’t like the way the ordinance passed, as a citizens’ initiative.
“The city council voted against this very thing last year,” she said, referring to legislation that failed to pass Palmer City Council last year. “What do we have a city council for if they don’t even count?“
She said she thinks the ordinance will affect her business. People don’t have to drive too far to have a cigarette with their drink, she said. Smoking is still allowed in Del Rois in the Butte and in Four Corners Lounge at Palmer-Wasilla Highway and Trunk Road.
Plus, she said, there really wasn’t that much smoke in her building to begin with, what with the air-exchange and make-up air systems and multiple smoke-eaters she’s installed.
That’s an investment down the tubes, and there’s more money to spend yet setting herself up for the new law.
“It’s going to cost me money to lose money, basically, because I have to build a little place for them to smoke,” she said.
What that will be, exactly, she hasn’t quite decided yet.
But Cheezem said it doesn’t have to be the case that Palmer watering holes lose money on this.
“People who were opposed to it were concerned about some of the businesses here and I think we’re going to work really hard in January when it comes into effect to keep promoting Palmer and drive customers to these businesses,” he said. “As a group we’ll kind of wind down, but individuals will continue to be involved in making this a healthy and economically vibrant community.”
Contact reporter Andrew Wellner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-2270.