Bar Owners Eye Tax Tactic In Smoking Ban Fight 3-30-2011 - WNEM TV 5

Bar Owners Eye Tax Tactic In Smoking Ban Fight 3-30-2011

Love it or hate it, it's been nearly a year since the smoking ban took effect in Michigan. But now the group Protect Private Property Right in Michigan is proposing some pretty drastic measures to get lawmakers to take a second look at it.
They want bar owners to stop paying taxes completely until the smoking issue is brought back up. And some bar owners TV5 spoke with didn't think that’s a bad idea.
Patrons won't find any ash trays on the bar at the Red Horse in Saginaw.
Co-owner Chris Adams is enforcing the smoking ban, but that doesn't mean he likes it. Bar owners don't think it's too late to change the law and they want to get lawmakers attention -- and they're ready to take some bold steps.
“It's hurt us. I don't know anybody in the small bar industry that it's helped,” said Adams. Just down the street from the Red Horse, bar owner Jerry Baleck at Patty Flemings feels the same way.
“I’m against it. I think it's private property here, and I should be allowed to say whether I want to smoke or not,” said Baleck.
That’s why a growing number of business owners are taking matters into their own hands. They love their bars and hate the smoking ban law, so some are trying to get Lansing’s attention where it hurts -- right in the wallet.
A group of Michigan bar owners said they'll set up private escrow accounts and hold off on paying their taxes. “Maybe they ain't got enough money to pay their taxes in the first place with the smoking ban,” said Baleck.
“If we're not making money, why should we give them money?” said Adams. At least 200 bar owners have pledged to stop paying their taxes. It's a drastic step and owners TV5’s Liz Gelardi spoke with aren't sure if they're ready to go that far.
“I don't know. I’d have to know the ins and outs and know all the particulars before I would jump in and do something so drastic,” said Adams. “But yeah, I probably will consider it.”
“Are you going to keep paying your taxes?” Gelardi asked Baleck. “Well, yeah, [I] don’t need no tax problems,” responded Baleck.
“Hopefully we can get more numbers,” said Adams. “Hopefully we can double that, you know, so we can get twice as many people together and make a statement to the state and tell them we're tired of being pushed around.”
Gelardi also spoke with local lawmaker Paul Scott, a huge supporter of the smoking ban. Scott told Gelardi he thinks this move is outrageous and that the legislature has no interest in revisiting it. He said they need to follow the law.
TV5 has done several stories on the affects of the smoking ban on bars and even went in undercover to find some that are still letting customers light up, despite the law. You can check those video stories out by going to the video player on the main WNEM.com page.
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