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Ryan Johnson, Forum Communications Co., Published August 14 2010

Grand Forks bars to go smoke-free at midnight

Audra Goulet said she imagines spending time with friends at Grand Forks bars will still be about the same – even after a big change that goes into effect tonight.

Liquor establishments in the city will become a little less hazy at midnight, a result of a 4-3 vote by the Grand Forks City Council to ban smoking in bars, truck stops and bowling alleys.

Goulet said being a smoker makes many people incorrectly assume she’s upset about the ban.

“I’m actually kind of looking forward to it because I’ll smoke less probably,” she said. “I think it’s probably a good thing.”

Goulet and a friend, Jennifer Dotson, were spending their Friday night at Rumors, enjoying their last full night of being able to have a smoke while relaxing over drinks and conversation.

Dotson said she’s ready for the ban. She is a smoker, but she quickly admitted sitting in a smoky bar for a while is enough to make anyone “stink bad.”

“Some nights, you go out, and when you wake up ... you can still smell the smoke,” she said.

Having a cigarette during a night on the town will now just be a lot like it is when she’s home – Dotson doesn’t smoke inside her own house because she doesn’t want her 2-year-old daughter to be around it.

“I think it would actually be better at a bar,” Dotson said about the ban. “Yeah, I like to smoke and drink, but it’s not really going to bother me to go outside.”

Goulet said the change could help smokers decide to quit. And she thinks it won’t take long before the ban seems like it’s always been in place.

“Just like in Minnesota, they’re going to get used to it,” she said. “I was just amazed how long it took Grand Forks and North Dakota to get there.”

East Grand Forks and all other Minnesota cities went smoke-free several years ago as the result of a statewide indoor smoking ban for most public places.

North Dakota passed a ban around the same time, but that did not include bars – a type of business that was exempt in Grand Forks until now.

Mac Pesch, manager of Rumor’s, said his establishment plans to put containers outside to keep the littering to a minimum. And the bar might build a smoke hut this fall to give smokers a place to get out of the weather.

Pesch said the ban could hurt Rumors’ gaming or even the overall business. But he also saw this type of change as something that was almost inevitable.

Ryan Johnson is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald