Friday, April 30, 2010
It is the first day of a weekend.
It is the first day of May.
And it is the first day of a new law in Michigan that bans smoking in restaurants, bars and just about anywhere that has a roof and a few places that don’t.
Look, I don’t want to re-start any old debates about smoking, smoking bans or individual rights. I believe Michigan is the 38th state to enact such a law, putting us, in triathlon and marathon terms, back in the section of the field where the spectators are yelling “come on, don’t give up, you can do it” – so most of this stuff has already been argued and resolved. Or not resolved. Restaurants went out of business before the first state enacted a smoking ban (going out of business is the second-most common thing restaurants do, just behind serving food). People will die from first-hand smoke, second-hand smoke and no smoke at all after the last state clears the air. From what I can tell, the biggest change is that fewer of the people suffering medical issues from second-hand smoke will be waiters and waitresses and bussers and other hospitality workers who (and we can light a match near this powder keg another day) don’t tend to have the kind of medical coverage we associate with premium pulmonary and oncological care.
So I’m not going to write about that. I’ll just mention a tiny little side benefit I see coming from this law that I haven’t heard anyone else mention.
I like local, independently owned restaurants. That doesn’t mean I hate chains -- franchise restaurants are often owned by local individuals, too. I like plenty of them just as I’ve been disappointed by a few independents. But by and large, I like the independents. I like chefs who are creative, who can concentrate a little more on the food and a little less on the corporate vigorish, who can buy whatever ingredients they like instead of using what the parent company says they’ll use. I like atmospheres that are unique. I like being surprised more than I need to know that the chicken Caesar tastes exactly the same in Lansing as it does in Grand Rapids as it does in some suburb of Phoenix.
But because of that exact corporately enforced conformity, I’m sure, most chain and franchise restaurants went smoke-free or highly smoke-segregated long before Michigan had the idea. Independents, no so much. And I’ll confess that, despite my affinity for the locals, I’ve patronized a few of them less because I didn’t care for the smoke.
Now, maybe, I’ll know what the food tastes like in a few of those places. Come to that, given what smoke does to the taste buds, so will a few of their regulars.
Posted by Jef Mallett at 9:52 AM