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Bar patrons take one last puff

Fargo and West Fargo, N.D., bar owners are worrying about 30 percent sales losses while scrambling to prepare their establishments for new smoking bans.

Fargo and West Fargo, N.D., bar owners are worrying about 30 percent sales losses while scrambling to prepare their establishments for new smoking bans.

At 8 a.m. today, smoking bans in both cities will make it illegal to smoke in all indoor workplaces, including bars, restaurants and private clubs.

Kurt Lepiard, owner of the Silver Dollar Bar in West Fargo, said he is expecting as much as a 30 percent drop in sales after his bar goes smoke free because smoking customers won't stay as long, cutting their time in the bar by about 25 percent.

Smokers Steve Hansen and Bob Wateland, both 48 and of Fargo, said they frequent downtown bars but the new ban will keep them at home because they don't want to sit at a bar in which they can't smoke.

Randy Thorson, owner of Old Broadway, Borrowed Bucks and Mr. G's, all of Fargo, said it might not affect his businesses as much as other establishments because they attract a younger clientele.

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Thorson and Lepiard said they are glad the ban is starting in the summer because people won't mind smoking outside. Once winter hits, bar owners will see the ban's true effect on sales, Thorson said.

Fargo City Tobacco Control Coordinator Bette Deede said she expects this week's smoke-free transition to be smooth, in part, because of the weather.

Going smoke free

Last week, 58 local businesses received a ban implementation packet to help them go smoke free, Deede said.

Businesses were instructed to inform employees about the ban, put up "no smoking" signage and remove ashtrays.

To accommodate smokers, the Silver Dollar will expand its patio area, which seats about 25 people now.

"It's just going to be a big learning curve," Lepiard said. "We'll manage."

Since Moorhead bars went smoke free Oct. 1, they have survived the difficult transition, Chumley's owner Gary Peterson said. He added that although some bar owners blame financial losses on smoking bans, other factors, such as the economy and DUI laws, affect bar business, too.

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Although he has lost some customers since October, Peterson said many of his new customers enjoy the smoke-free atmosphere.

"We have gotten many compliments, even from smokers themselves, on how nice it is not to have a smoke-filled bar," Peterson said.

Outdoor smoking ban

A new smoking policy also takes effect today at North Dakota State University. Smoking is now prohibited within 50 feet of buildings.

In January, Minnesota State University-Moorhead adopted a campuswide smoking and smokeless tobacco ban. UND adopted a similar policy in October.

Last week, Fargo Park Board President Joel Vettel asked the board to draft an ordinance during a meeting of the board's facilities committee that would ban smoking in and around the city's playgrounds. The proposed ban would not affect entire parks.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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