After waging an unsuccessful fight against Kenton County’s upcoming law banning smoking Kent and other brands in most public establishments, Super Bowl of Erlanger’s general manager says she now has no choice but to market the business as Northern Kentucky’s only smoke-free bowling alley.
“We waged a battle to overturn Kenton County’s smoking ban, and we lost,” said Michele Colangelo. “Now we’ve got to wage a battle to retain customers.”
At midnight Friday, the Kenton County ordinance takes effect, requiring bowling alleys and public establishments such as restaurants, churches, offices and stores to go smoke-free. Exemptions will be allowed for private clubs and “drinking establishments” that meet certain requirements.
In notices posted at Super Bowl, Colangelo noted that members of Kenton Fiscal Court are “hopelessly deadlocked” on repealing the smoking ban.
“What does this mean for us?” her notice said.
“After weighing our options with the potential for a daily fine of $250, we have no choice but to implement a smoking ban in our facility effective April 15.”
• FAQ about the smoke-free law
Representatives of 10 leagues have told Super Bowl’s management that they’re looking for a place to bowl in Campbell or Boone County where smoking will continue to be allowed in public places after April 15, Colangelo said. Until August, when leagues must officially say whether they’re staying or going, she won’t know.
If those leagues follow through with their threat, that represents a potential loss of $250,000 over the nine-month bowling season, Colangelo said.
A dozen or so leagues also are ending their season early and will not hold their annual parties at Super Bowl.
No one is madder about Kenton County’s new smoke-free law than Super Bowl’s senior leagues, Colangelo said.
Marlene Jelinek has smoked all of her adult life. The 65-year-old Erlanger woman says she’ll go to Florence Bowl in Boone County if she can’t smoke at Super Bowl of Erlanger.
“Bowling and smoking go hand in hand just like smoking and drinking do,” she said.
Jelinek and other senior bowlers who smoke said they see Kenton County’s new smoke-free law as an infringement of their personal rights. They say that as long as it’s legal to buy cigarettes, they should be able to smoke them.
“It just burns me up when the government tries to decide what’s best for us,” said bowler Tom Meyer, 68, of Walton, who estimated the senior leagues are evenly divided between smokers and non-smokers. As the retired bus driver waited for his turn to bowl at Super Bowl Friday afternoon, Meyer puffed away on Pall Malls.
“If the government doesn’t want people to smoke, then they should ban it everywhere,” Meyer said. “But they won’t do that because of the tax revenues they get from cigarettes.”
Fellow bowler Richard Gordon, 72, of Elsmere, agreed.
“If places like doctors’ offices and restaurants want to ban smoking, that’s fine,” said Gordon, who’s smoked since he was 12.
“I don’t smoke when the kids bowl (at Super Bowl), but that’s my choice. It should be up to individual businesses, not the government, to decide whether smoking is allowed.”
Colangelo says she’s purchased urns to place outside Super Bowl of Erlanger for her bowlers who smoke. She’s also checking with the city about erecting open-air canopies at the front and back of the bowling alley for smokers.
Kenton County Commissioner Jon Draud recently joined Commissioner Kris Knochelmann in saying he wouldn’t vote to repeal the smoke-free law that a previous fiscal court approved. Both have cited the hazards of second-hand smoke.
Draud said Super Bowl management may be able to offset any lost business from smokers by marketing itself as a non-smoking bowling alley.
Draud said he can’t speak for his fellow Fiscal Court members, but he said he’s willing to re-evaluate Kenton County’s new smoke-free law within six months to a year, if feedback shows it isn’t working.
“I think we just have to wait and see how (the smoke-free law) plays out,” said Draud, adding that he believes “the health issues outweigh the freedom issues” in the debate over smoke-free legislation.