Winter shelters built for smokersThere’s been a kind of construction boom in Grand Forks lately, but you’d miss it unless you dropped by your local bar. Workers have been putting up smoking shelters, preparing for the bone-chilling months ahead — the first winter smoking has been banned in Grand Forks bars.
By: By Tu-Uyen Tran , Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
There’s been a kind of construction boom in Grand Forks lately, but you’d miss it unless you dropped by your local bar.
Workers have been putting up smoking shelters, preparing for the bone-chilling months ahead — the first winter smoking has been banned in Grand Forks bars.
Out behind Joe Black’s downtown, they’re building a shelter with outdoor heaters, big enough for 25, according to Denny Blackmun, one of the owners. It could accommodate more, but because the city’s ban requires smokers to be 15 feet away from any doorway, only 40 percent of the area under the roof is usable.
It’s hard to tell if customers will use it, and none have asked about it, Blackmun said, but he can’t afford to make customers feel like they have to go elsewhere.
At McMenamy’s Tavern, though, Mike McMenamy has heard plenty about the new shelter he’s putting up. “They’re real happy about it — not as happy as they’d be as they’d be if they can smoke inside!”
He said he’s lost customers as a result of the ban, and some just don’t stay as long as they used to.
The ban, in effect since Aug. 15, allowed bar owners to build smoking shelters. Most bar owners haven’t bothered until now because the fall has been so kind to the smoking-and-drinking crowd.
So far, 14 bars have requested permission to build smoking shelters from the city’s building inspections office, according to inspections chief Bev Collings. That’s out of a total of 29 bars in town with Class 1 alcohol licenses — those are the ones that can serve beer and liquor and sell them to take home.
The Big Sioux truck stop also has requested permission, she said.
Many bar owners were not very happy when the smoking ban went into effect because they feared that it would cost customers and money. The City Council passed the ban because a survey found overwhelming support for ending exemptions for bars, truck stops and bowling alleys.
Three months in, the ban has added another line item to bars’ budgets.
According to Collings, the smoking shelters that have gotten the OK from her office have ranged from $1,000 all the way to $50,000. At the top end of the scale are places such as Borrowed Bucks and the Big Sioux, mostly because those places want large shelters that blend in better with the rest of their buildings.
On the lower end of the scale is Joe Black’s, which is building its shelter in the back.
Some bars, Collings said, probably can’t build a shelter even if they wanted to because there’s no space for a shelter where they’re located. One bar, for instance, is on the second floor of a building, she said.
City law says that a smoking shelter may have a roof and half of its perimeter covered, meaning they can’t be fully enclosed. This could mean two walls or it could mean, as is the case with Joe Black’s, four walls with the top and bottom parts left out so there’d be coverage mostly for the average smoker’s thighs and torso, but not shins or heads.
McMenamy, while no fan of the law, credits the city with being especially proactive about going to bars and helping ensure shelter designs obey the law.
Tu-Uyen Tran is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald,
which is owned by Forum Communications Co.
The city could’ve just made bars bring designs to it and dictate changes without seeing the actual construction site, he said.
His shelter should be done in a week or so, he said.