People Ban: TX Killeen

Texas Killeen Update

Up in (no) smoke?

Jan. 25 2009
By Justin Cox, Killeen Daily Herald

COPPERAS COVE – More than a few Killeen business owners are getting a bit antsy as the Killeen City Council considers implementing a citywide smoking ban.

Like a patient waiting for test results in the doctor’s office, the business owners worry that a smoking ban would severely hurt their income, particularly those in the entertainment and service industries – bars, pool halls, restaurants, nightclubs, bowling alleys. Those places cater to a very specific clientele.

Many residents who spoke at public hearings earlier this month in favor of a ban didn’t believe such a ban would affect businesses negatively, if at all.

Copperas Cove residents felt the same way when they approved a ban in 2004.

But ask Tim Lyons, owner of the Kettle restaurants in Killeen and Copperas Cove, if he thinks a ban would be a positive financial move, and you’ll get a different take.

“As soon as the smoking ban went into effect, we lost 40 percent of our business – like you flipped a switch,” Lyons said. “We break even or we lose money on that store, and just make it up with the Killeen store.”

Many business owners, such as Hallmark Lanes owner Dick Atkinson, don’t believe they will go out of business if such a ban were put in place, but they would lose some, certainly, Atkinson said.

The question is how much.

The Kettle restaurant was not the exception in Copperas Cove, it was the rule. All along U.S. 190 come tales from restaurant owners and longtime regulars.

Roy Pendleton and his wife, Pat, have been there to witness the transformation in the past five years, all from the sanctity of American Legion Post 582.

The American Legion, and similar fraternal organizations such as the VFW, are listed as exemptions in the Cove ordinance, just as they are in the proposed Killeen ordinance, and have been totally unaffected by the ban.

As an organization with a national charter, the city cannot regulate rules such as no smoking inside because it’s considered a private club.

Both smokers, Pendleton has served as the post’s adjutant for the past eight years alongside his wife. But now, when they go out to eat, they don’t choose a local place any longer.

“When we go out to eat, we always drive to Killeen because we can smoke,” Pat Pendleton said. “My mother and I drive to Killeen twice a week and bowl because we can smoke there. That’s why I don’t bowl (in Cove), that’s why I don’t bowl on Fort Hood.”

The city council and smoking ban committee must weigh the elimination of significant health hazards in its public locales against the losses experienced by businesses in the community, loss of jobs and sales tax revenue.

Pendleton said the ban had a severe effect on the local restaurants.

He said it hurt the small local sites the most, attributing those losses to the two small restaurants that closed down in the months following the ban.

The owner of Southern Nights across the street lost 40 percent of its business and has been forced to close its doors during certain nights of the week.

The trickle-down effect further hit the 24-hour Kettle on the other side of 190. Lyons said the place just never recovered after the ban was put in place.

“We got business from Southern Nights at night since we’re just about the only place open all night,” Lyons said. “If there’s no one at the club, they can’t come back over to our place to sober up.”

Few come on most weekdays, so the Kettle closes early. Lyons doesn’t have the staff. He said he lost six waiting staff, two cooks and two full-time bus boys immediately, and has not added another position in five years.

Contact Justin Cox at jcox@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568.

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