The Fourth Street Cafe in Beloit has two entrances. One for its non-smoking section...the other for the smoking section. But starting Sunday...Leave the cigarettes at home because the whole place becomes a non-smoking restaurant. "You got to go by the law, a law is a law but i don't think that it's fair," said Waitress Lou Ann Martin.
Martin's restaurant is one of 66 restaurants in Beloit that go smoke-free this weekend....along with all other public gathering places. It's all part of new city-wide smoking restrictions adopted by city leaders last November. "It was definitely a public health perspective. Most communities have already adopted standards," said Beloit City Manager Larry Arft. Specifically, the new law means smoking gets snuffed out of any business where the public is welcome, like banks and downtown retail stores. Day care facilities make the list as well along with common areas at apartment buildings. "The city sort of took a mid-range approach. There is an exception built in for taverns. There is a hardship provision built in for restaurants," Arft said. The latter means not all hope is lost for restaurant's like the Fourth Street Cafe. If they lose 15 percent of their business during the first three months of the new restrictions, the city will give them a one year grace period. But that still doesn't offer much comfort to waitresses like Martin. "I've heard alot of people, customers, complaining that they are not coming back," Martin said. Arft says the city's research shows, over time, business goes up with smoking bans. He also reminds people that you can still smoke outside. But you better be 15 feet from the building.