Bar Owner Wants Smoke-Free Law

In State News on December 17, 2009 at 9:20 am

This letter addressed to Indianapolis Mayor Ballard was published on

Dear Mayor Ballard,

My name is Michael Quarto. I’m a Cathedral graduate and the proud owner of The Mousetrap. As I’m sure you know, we are one of Indianapolis’ older establishments, having opened in 1957. I bought the place in 2002 and have revamped it quite a bit. I hope you’ll stop by for a bowl of our famous Hot Stew sometime.

The reason for my letter is our absolute need for a smoking ban. If you were in The Mousetrap on a weekend night, you might think I was crazy to want this, as 70-80% of our customers smoke at some point through the night. Through conversations with some of our regular customers, I’ve been told “I’ll never come in here if we can’t smoke” and “we’ll all go to private clubs or each others’ houses”. They are all bluffing.

The fact of the matter is a few of them will stay away for a week or two, even a month. They will come back! Not only will they come back, but also dozens of new customers will join them. For every customer who swears he’ll boycott the bars there are 3 who just will not enter a bar strictly because of the smoke. Most bar owners would prefer to be smoke free right now, but with a very few exceptions, it would be a financial disaster to be the lone non-smoking place. It needs to be all of us. I have read the studies from many of the other cities that have implemented a ban, and they all show relative growth after a minor initial lull, if any lull at all. I’m sure Indianapolis would follow suit.

I, like many others, do have reservations about some of the restrictions though. We have to give reasonable consideration to smokers, because it is still legal and they do have the right to smoke. I believe there are many ways to make these concessions, but we must remove the “25 foot” rule. I cannot imagine the problems that it could cause Downtown or in Broad Ripple, as well as many of our other public venues and facilities. The Convention Center also comes to mind when thinking about a ban.

Losing out on a major convention because a few CEO’s want a place to smoke a good cigar would be a big problem. Most places have more than one entrance. I see no reason why we couldn’t designate “smoke-free entrances”. Also, taking a patron 25 feet from a business provides little options in comfort. Not many places can provide seating, heat and ashtrays that far from their establishment. We need to allow for a reasonably comfortable and convenient area for smokers.

Another issue that obviously concerns business owners on the border of our city is the potential loss of business to a place right down the street, but outside the county line. We must put pressure on these counties to join Marion County’s effort to better serve its constituents. In many other senses, our surrounding counties are very much a part of the Indianapolis community, and they should be required, or at least persuaded to be a part of this necessary endeavor.

This is the right thing to do for our workers, our citizens and the future of our city. Indianapolis has been left behind in the past. We have overcome it to become a major city with ambitious goals and in order to keep it that way we must progress with the rest of the country. A few short years ago I joined many others in denouncing a smoking ban. I was wrong, and if you look around, I’m not alone. Many of us have come to our senses. Our city needs this immediately, and the vast majority of your constituents, including “small business owners” would agree.

Thank you very much for your time and concern.


Michael Quarto, owner Mousetrap Music, Sports Pub and Game Room


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