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Smoking ban miffs some nightspot owners

Initiative 901 has some Lower Valley tavern and business owners upset over the smoking ban that's set to go into effect Dec. 8 of this year.

"I can understand banning smoking in places where you have to go but people choose to go to a tavern," Linda Chester, co-owner of the Silver Dollar Inn in Mabton, said. "I think it's ridiculous."

Rob Rice, owner of RC's Casino and Valley Lanes here in Sunnyside, agreed.

"It's just going to be one of those wait and see situations," Rice said.

He said people who gamble are already gamblers. It doesn't matter whether they smoke or not, if they want to gamble they're going to gamble. Rice said he doesn't expect to gain any non-smoking gamblers because of the smoking ban but he does expect to lose some.

"If I thought it was good for business to not have smoking in my casino then I would have made it a non-smoking casino," he added.

As far as his sports lounge is concerned, "I think a lot of people will stay at home."

Rice has already made his bowling alley non-smoking during open times but during league play, bowlers are allowed to smoke. "It works out well," he said.

Chester believes the smoking ban will kill her business.

"Ninety percent of my customers smoke," she said.

Chester blames residents on the west side of the state for the smoking ban. "They're tree huggers over there and we're rednecks," she said. "They're taking a right away from us. I think they went way too far with this."

Chester doesn't think her business will make it past next June.

"It's bad enough with the sin taxes and gas prices they way they are now," she added. Chester noted she is now being charged a delivery fee on her goods because of the high gas prices. The smoking ban just adds to it, she said.

"People are going to drive to Toppenish where they can smoke," she said.

That's a concern for Rice, too. He says the casinos on the Indian reservations already have an advantage with slot machines, craps, keno and roulette. "Now they have a bigger advantage," Rice said of the smoking ban, which doesn't apply to Indian-owned casinos.

When he was asked if he might get a new crowd of non-smokers, he replied, "I think we'll see some new customers but I don't think it will make up for what we lose."

Chester said most women wouldn't come into the Silver Dollar Inn three years ago before her and her family took it over.

"We've really fixed it up and made it more of a family place," she said.

After all of the improvements her family has made, for this to happen isn't good news for Chester and her family.

"I'm outraged," she said.

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