The statewide smoking ban took effect just a little over a year ago on May 1, 2010. Some argue that it has been successful, while others argue that it has been detrimental. Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, I have a suggestion that most should find appealing. I propose that the state allow smoking licenses for bars, similar to liquor licenses. This proposal will not negate the benefits realized from the ban, and it will provide an economic and revenue boost that will help the state and local governments.
The details of my proposal are flexible, as this is just a starting point that is not yet based on thorough analysis of all of the possible consequences. If anyone has an objection to any part of my proposal, please do not hesitate to raise such concerns. I by no means feel what I’ve outlined below is perfect.
The details are as follows:
- Licenses shall be apportioned on the township and municipal level, based on population.
- Every township and city shall receive one license, with an additional license being apportioned for every 10,000 residents.
- Licenses shall be sold to establishments based on an auction system.
- Licenses will expire every two years, at which point another auction will occur.
- To qualify for the auction, establishments must receive at least 60 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales.
- The auction will be a silent auction, with all qualifying establishments being able to submit whatever bid they would like to pay for the license, without knowledge of the other bids.
- If multiple licenses are allocated to the same township or city, all licenses will be sold during the same auction. If there are multiple licenses, the top bidders in the silent auction will be awarded the licenses at the price of the lowest winning bid. For example, if there are two licenses, and top bid is $40,000, and the next top bid is $30,000, both establishments will receive the license at the cost of $30,000.
- Half of the revenue generated from the auction will go to the state education fund, while the other half will go to the local township or city.
- Establishments that receive the licenses must have top-of-the-line smoke mitigation systems in place.
If this proposal took effect, the vast majority of establishments would remain smoke-free, so those who favor the smoking ban would still have numerous options of where to frequent. The goal of the proposal though is to help maximize economic activity, and with the ban currently in place, there are residents who prefer to stay home rather than go out. If those residents were provided a single option of a bar at which they could smoke, they would take it.
For the business owners, this proposal should be preferable to the status quo. The auction system means that bars that receive a license will not have an unfair competitive advantage over other bars, as the cost of the license should even things out. Plus, the places that get the licenses will most likely lose their nonsmoking clientele in return for gaining customers who want to smoke. Those nonsmoking clientele will then spend their money at the nonsmoking bars.
I would love to hear any feedback that you may have. I have never been a smoker, and would not go to a bar that received a smoking license, but I know many individuals who would. And so I’m willing to give up a few of my options if that results in greater economic activity for the state.
If you’re a nonsmoker, would you object to a few establishments being able to allow their customers to smoke, if the majority of bars (and all restaurants, bowling alleys, other venues, etc) were still smoke-free?
If you are a smoker, would having a few locations that allow smoking result in you going out more often? If you are a business owner, would you fight against this proposal, or welcome it? I welcome all comments and criticisms.