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August 3, 2004

Stadiums and smoke

Stadium news ... yo-hoooooo ... where are you? Ahh, there you are, you thought you could hide from me, but I found you! The past few days have produced a couple of articles concerning my favorite topic, stadiums in Minnesota, and as per usual the news is not very good. Apparently, the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association and other state hospitality groups may withdraw their support for taxes on the hospitality industry for a new Twins stadium if smoking is banned in bars in the metro area:

It seems the hospitality industry is complaining that they have been bearing the taxing burden for too long, and if they also have to bear the brunt of a smoking ban they aren't going to take it anymore:
Bar and restaurant owners say they're worried about the confluence of the two issues and the impact on their financial bottom line. For too long, those who sell liquor have been a scapegoat for politicians unwilling to cut services or go to the public for more taxes, said Jim Farrell, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association.

"We can't do it all," said Farrell, who represents thousands of Minnesota liquor retailers, including bars and restaurants. The association's members have voiced support to help build a new stadium for the Twins in the past. The group "will consider now aligning itself against" any stadium plan that would further tax them, he added.

Farrell also added, "If the anti-stadium folks and the bar folks get together, I believe it's over with." Boy, talk about some horrible long term thinking. I can understand their aversion to a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. They feel fewer people will come to those bars and restaurants if they can't smoke. However, to remedy this potential problem they decide to take away their support for a Twins stadium. I'd like to know just what kind of impact do they think this move and its likely consequences will have ... If the Twins don't get a new stadium and leave town, bars and restaurants in the metro area will lose even more business. How does this make any sense? Steve Kelley, my beloved state senator, seems to agree with my thinking:

Farrell will have a tough time selling his argument. State Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said he is skeptical about alleged financial losses should city bars and restaurants be subjected to both smoking bans and taxes to support a ballpark.

"I'm not getting the economic logic, but the political logic I totally get," said Kelley, who was a chief sponsor of stadium legislation at the Capitol last session. The liquor industry may be using the stadium issue as leverage to kill or delay the smoking bans, said Kelley, who argues that the establishments undoubtedly would earn more revenue should a new ballpark be built nearby.

Unfortunately, this is just another episode in the tragic soap opera of stadium politics in Minnesota. Bottom line: does it hurt the Twins chances of finally seeing a stadium built in Minnesota? Yes. But truthfully, it doesn't hurt that much. Most legislators will see this as a bluff, I should think, and there are still other powerful organizations in the state that support building stadiums, like construction unions throughout the state. But it sure doesn't help.

Posted by snackeru at August 3, 2004 12:29 PM | Stadiums


Thought for you, if all these restaurants join against the stadium fight, will you boycott all them as well? It sure is easy to boycott restaurants in St. Paul when you don't go there to eat anyway. But what about if the Hennepin county bars and restaurants (including your favorite, Fuddruckers as they sell beer) join in that fight? Will you no longer eat out? I think they have a legitimate gripe. They are being treated poorly. They are told how to run their businesses by the state, which could hurt their bottom line, then being told that they have to give more of their $ to the state to help the state out.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at August 3, 2004 3:59 PM

I agree that restaurants and bars are getting a bad deal in all of this, but I won't boycott a restaurant until it actually comes out and says it is against building a stadium. In this case, a trade association may be pulling its support, not an individual restaurant. So, as long as Fuddruckers doesn't come out and say "no" to a stadium I will continue to enjoy my 1/2 pound triple cheese burger, thank you very much.

Posted by: Shane at August 4, 2004 9:23 AM

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