Up in smoke

Kara Christensen

Kara Christensen

Going out to eat means making a lot of decisions: where to go, which friend to go with and what to eat. But starting this summer, “Smoking or non?” won’t be one of those choices.

After July 1, state law will prohibit smoking in restaurants that don’t have a liquor license.

For one junior, the restaurant ban will end social chats and study sessions over coffee and cigarettes.

A recovering alcoholic, Charley Martinson said he prefers passing time in Country Kitchen or Perkins over hanging out at the bars.

“Unfortunately, I smoke,” he said. “Now I am forced into an alcoholic environment, which is detrimental to an alcoholic.”

Martinson said he’ll still go out to eat, but he probably won’t stay as long or go out as often.

“They’re infringing on my rights [as a smoker],” he said. “I understand why they’re doing it, though.”

A laissez-faire policy, with a hands-off approach from the government, would be ideal, Martinson said.

“It should be up to the independent business owner whether to allow smoking or not,” he said.

Mary Dahlmeier, a hostess at Perkins, said she is happy about the ban on smoking sections in restaurants.

“It’s not like there’s a wall there,” she said. “[Smoke] still drifts up.” A glass divider now separates those who smoke from those who don’t.

When the restaurant is full of smokers, “it just reeks,” she said.

Some customers now sit for hours, smoking and drinking coffee, she said. The ban probably won’t keep smokers away, but she suggested it may limit the time smokers spend inside the restaurant.

“I think they’ve just kind of resigned themselves to the fact that that’s the way the world is now, and there’s nothing they can do about it,” she said.

Although she won’t miss the smoke, Dahlmeier said customers should know the ban comes from a new law, not a choice by the restaurant.

“I don’t want people to think we’re trying to keep smokers out,” she said. “We’re still the same restaurant, just no smoking.”

Patrick Lopez, a waiter at Country Kitchen, said the change won’t be a big deal. He recently moved to Brookings from Colorado, and he said similar laws had been accepted there.

“I think it’s fine,” he said. “I think stepping outside to smoke won’t be as big of an issue as some people may think.”

However, smoke in restaurants doesn’t bother him, either as a customer or as a server. He said the current set-up in Country Kitchen respects everyone’s rights, except that customers have to go through the smoking section to get to the rest rooms. Country Kitchen now has two distinct dining areas for smokers and non-smokers.

Lopez predicted any loss in business from smokers would be cancelled out by a new customers that like a smoke-free environment.

“I think it’ll balance out in the end,” he said.

On Campus changes

Student smokers will soon have fewer places where they can puff, thanks to another change. Starting this fall, SDSU residence halls and apartment buildings will be completely smoke-free.

Jeff Vostad, assignment supervisor for residential life, said the department’s decision had no relation to the new state law that bans smoking sections in restaurants.

“It’s a customer service issue more than anything,” he said. “The desire of the incoming students to live in a smoke-free environment is overwhelming.”

Residents can now smoke outside, as long as they are 20 feet away from the dorms. This won’t be changed, Vostad said.

The change resulted from a steady decline in the number of incoming students who request a smoking dorm room and an increase in the number who request smoke-free facilities, he said.

“One just kind of plays in to the other,” he said.