With casualties of the state's smoking ban mounting, small-business owners plan to take another shot at Albany lawmakers with a weeklong shutdown of Quick Draw lottery terminals.
A Brooklyn-based grass-roots organization, NYC CLASH (Citizens Lobby Against Smoker Harassment), has called the shutdown for Oct. 23 to 29. The group seeks participation beyond taverns and restaurants -- to other small businesses affected by the smoking ban, including bowling alleys, inns and fraternal lodges.
"The move isn't so much a protest but rather a display of collective power -- a power that must be taken into consideration before legislators decide to propose and enact business-busting regulations," said Audrey Silk, the group's founder.
Enacted in July 2003, the smoking ban affects bars, restaurants, offices and covered outdoor patios. Several establishments have gone under because of lost business.
On Monday, citing the loss of trade due to the smoking ban, owner Richard E. Naylon Jr. closed Jimmy Mac's, which had been a popular restaurant and bar at Elmwood Avenue and Anderson Place, thus ending a 23-year run and causing the loss of 35 full-time jobs.
Last October, the Middleport Inn closed. Yet owner Renee Lembke continues to fight the ban, in her role as president of the New York State Bar & Restaurant Freedom Fighters.
"Just as we did before, (we're) asking everybody to shut down for as long as their business will allow," she said. "It's asking a little bit but it does prove a point. If everybody sticks together, it does make a big impact on the state's money."
In May 2003, before the ban took effect, some tavern owners pulled the plugs on their Quick Draw machines in protest. Of 2,917 retailers with the machines, 350 weren't working the first day of the protest.
Average daily sales were reduced that day by $233,000, a state Lottery Division spokeswoman had reported.
Lembke said she anticipates good support from the 70 to 80 businesses in Niagara County that are members of her group.
A Southern Tier bar owner, who has led the opposition in Chautauqua County, also said she is in. "Since Albany is legislating businesses out of business, then the only thing left to do is to make them feel the same kind of pinch they've imposed on us," said Brenda Perks, owner of Mel's Place Bar in Falconer.
While the ban initially was met by vocal, visible opposition statewide, it has been relatively quiet in the trenches lately. "I know we really have dwindled; not in size, just in fight," Lembke said. "I really want to get things moving again."