Smoking Ban Won't Hurt the Live Music Scene

RECEIVED Mon., April 4, 2005

Dear Editor,
    It's clear that Louis Black cares deeply about Austin's live music scene – the clubs, the musicians, and the culture that surrounds it. So, I'm puzzled by his recent column concerning Austin's upcoming smoking ban ordinance vote ("Page Two,” April 1).
    Black says that he doesn't "care about nor fully believe reports about the economic impact of smoking bans on small businesses," but then he takes one such report to heart (from Elysium owner Wickham) and concludes that "a ban will hurt some clubs, kill other clubs, and damage the live music scene."
    I'm not sure how Black can be so certain about the economic impact of a smoking ban, but let's consider what his conclusion says about those who care about Austin's live music scene as much as he does.
    The possible economic damage of a smoking ban will occur if most smokers no longer go to the clubs. In other words, these smokers are going to the clubs to smoke. They have little or no commitment to the bands or venues. So, the "vitality" of Austin's live music scene is resting on the whim of smokers whose lifestyle choice has absolutely nothing to do with the music scene that Black cares so much about.
    Yes, less business from smokers is a possible result of a smoking ban, but let's also consider some possible benefits for Austin's live music scene: More attendance from nonsmokers. Continued attendance from smokers who value the music scene more than their smoking. Improved air quality for Austin musicians, venue employees, and patrons.
    Even if the smoking ban passes, people will still be free to smoke in the vast majority of Austin in places called "the outdoors." Voters should be aware that, unlike the Round Rock ordinance, Austin's ordinance does permit smoking on outdoor patios.
Jason Levitt
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