Springfield-Greene County Health Department Exempts a Few Businesses from Smoking Ordinance
Springfield’s City Council made a few changes in May to the city’s indoor smoking law. Though the ban is still in place, the council unanimously voted to amend the act in order to allow indoor smoking in pre-existing bingo parlors, private clubs, cigar bars and retail tobacco stores. Seven locations were granted exemption in Springfield. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark visits with one facility owner, who says business has never been better since the exemption.
Inside the Springfield tobacco shop Just For Him, owner Christian Hutson grabs three glass jars filled with ground tobacco leaves off of a wall that displays at least fifty. He moves some wooden pipes out of the way to better explain the blends of tobacco inside the jars.
(Nat sound: Christian explaining different tobacco blends)
For Hutson, selling tobacco products isn’t just a job, it’s his passion, and running Just for Him isn’t just a business, it’s a lifestyle. He and his wife co-own the shop, which sells over 100 blends of pipe tobacco and over 50,000 cigars from all over the world. Just For Him also sells other masculine products like cologne, shaving cream and soaps.
Just for Him is one of seven facilities in Springfield exempt from the city’s indoor smoking law.
The exemption allows indoor smoking so long as no paid employees are around the smoking areas and those areas are clearly labeled as such. Hutson says his business fought a long time to get to the place they are now.
“We realized very quickly that you cannot be in the tobacco business, cigar shop owner, without being politically active. We tend to get lumped in with “Big Tobacco.” We’re a small, family-owned business and sell products primarily made by other family owned businesses.”
Hutson says even though there are restrictions, the exemptions help the business cater to his “regulars,” as he calls them, that come in on a daily basis to relax and smoke.
“My customers, my regulars as they say. We’re sitting in what is our front smoking lounge, we have one in the back as well, and we’ve actually had to expand it because it’s such a popular place. We’ve been around for about 25 years and we literally have customers that come in on a daily basis for decades. This is a relationship-based business.”
Hutson says he saw a change in business within one day of the passing of the exemptions to the law.
“Here’s a really good example. This April, if you compare our numbers on a monthly basis, our sales numbers, it was the worst April in 20 years. The first week of May was when the Grandfather Clause amendment was voted upon by city council. Business literally picked up the next day. There were customers I had not seen in almost a year. We finished out May as the best month in the history of the store in 24 years, outside of Christmas.”
And June, he says, blew away May.
(nat: phone ring)
Although Hutson is happy that he can still operate his business under the Smokefree Air Act, he says he still believes in repealing the act all together. But he says he feels this issue cannot be solved through city voters anymore, in light of the fact that it’s been voted on twice already. Hutson says they are now turning to state leadership to fight the ban.
According to a press release from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, the other facilities exempt from the ban include Knights of Columbus Bingo Emporium, Opus Cigar Bar, The Albatross Hookah Bar and Lounge, Discount Smoke Shop, Don Johnson’s Tobacco World and Smoker’s Outlet—all in Springfield.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark