Smoke damage? City gets 85K to study ban effects

The city is getting $85,000 from the antismoking group MPAAT to study how the new Minneapolis bar and restaurant smoking ban affects businesses and the public.

The grant will pay the city to evaluate the smoking ban's economic impacts, bar and restaurant compliance, and public opinion changes, said Pat Harrison, director of research.

The smoking ban goes into effect March 31.

The city will evaluate sales tax revenue from different business subgroups - such as neighborhood bars, hotel/restaurants and bowling alleys - both before and after the ban, Harrison said. It could compare the impact on relatively new businesses compared to established businesses. It could evaluate the impact in different parts of the city.

Other communities with smoking bans have done economic impact studies. Some have come under fire, by either the hospitality industry or antismoking groups because of perceived bias in methodology. An MPAAT-backed study could face skepticism and scrutiny from those who opposed the ban locally.

Harrison said the city wanted the business community involved in the data collection and analysis to be sure it finds the results credible. She would talk to Mike Jennings, a Minneapolis bar owner, president of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, and a representative from the Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association.

"It is something we will muddle through together," she said. "We are open to having a transparent process."

The study will also examine employment changes in the hospitality industry, Harrison said, though "it is not an exact science." The research will also compile information on citizen complaints about smoking ban violations and how the city responds, as well as review annual inspections reports.

The Hennepin County Medical Society - a smoking ban supporter - got a grant to do the public opinion survey. The city will help design the survey.

"We will want to learn what people think of environments after they go smoke-free," Harrison said. "We would like to look at behavior changes - if they are more or less likely to go to bars or restaurants."