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This is my Story about how the smoking ban killed The Coachman Restaurant and Bar.

My husband and I bought The Coachman in 1982. It was a bad time to get into our own business with a recession in process. We were determined to make the business work, to build something to pass on, and to live "The American Dream." You remember that dream? The one that said hard work was rewarded? In order to earn the dream, we took no money from the business. We worked 90 hour weeks for two years. We were robbed three times in two months. We never gave up, we put our heart and soul into that dream. You can imagine how happy we were when our loans were finally paid off and The Coachman was standing on it's own. The next few years went well, we built a good clientele and reputation. We were the typical privately owned business in America, run by a family... being part of that dream.

Then came the smoking ban.

We were given rules and regulations about allowing smoking in our privately owned business. We were suddenly deputized as Smoke Police and forced to uphold laws on our private property by force. We were given no choice as to how to handle our business, the government took that all away.

No one cared that smokers and non-smokers had been co-existing for hundreds of years. No one cared that we were having our freedom of choice ripped from us, that we no longer had the right to run our own family business. Politicians with agendas and money lusting attorneys decided for us how to run The Coachman. On unproven information, we were suddenly, as the American public, too stupid to know that smoking is bad for us and we were no longer capable of thinking for ourselves.

My wonderful husband passed away in August of 1994, as the smoking ban was coming into existence. I hoped that this politically correct mass hysteria would pass and that I could continue to run my business as I wanted. In order to ward off the very small number of "Anti-Smokers" who were telling all the "Smokers" and "Non-Smokers" what to do, a sign went up at The Coachman.

"The Coachman has become a private club.
Membership is $1.00 per year.
Please see the bartender for more information.
The Coachman will do everything possible to make all our customers happy and comfortable.
There will be smoking in the building."

Perhaps by being sure that no one "accidentally" walked in, that they really wanted to be there, maybe the politicians would see to what lengths we would go to protect the public and our business. We printed little membership cards and had over 400 members in two days. We were amazed at the numbers of people flocking to our business and the hundreds of Non-Smokers who wanted to join. People were outraged at the absurdity of losing their freedom of choice as customers. They work hard for their money, they are law-abiding citizens, and should have the right to decide where they do and do not want to go.

This worked for about two years. We were still "allowed" to have smoking in the bar because we had divided our building into two parts, the dining room and the bar. People were happy, they had chosen to come into The Coachman and chose where to sit.

Then came the total smoking ban.

Business was slowing dramatically with people not wanting to go to a bar where they couldn't smoke. Non-Smokers could not arrange to meet smokers there. Families with one smoker could not come to The Coachman for dinner. Regular customers apologized that they could no longer support our business. We were told not to tell the public what to do, as if this was all our idea. In June of 1999 we had to put The Coachman up for sale.

On the night of January 7, 2000 a couple asked to be seated in the bar for dinner. They became offensive to the people sitting next to them who lit a cigarette. I was called to the table. The couple was very rude to me, demanding that I do something about the smokers who no longer had a cigarette lit. The couple threatened to call the police. What could I do? Wrestle a fellow American Citizen to the floor for disobeying a law that no one at this establishment wanted in the first place? Do I look like a Nazi? Is it my job to protect the Fatherland above all decency to my fellow man? When did Americans gain the right to order another citizen to take measures against another citizen? (There are legal terms about this situation, and I think they all end up with jail terms.)

Later the waitress told me that the couple did not pay their tab. This is defrauding an innkeeper and is against the law. So I guess it is OK to break the law if you are not happy. To me, it was a case of "Good Riddance" and it was a small price to pay to get rid of this horrible, law breaking, self-righteous couple.

These horrible people then filled a lawsuit against us stating that "The Smokers" accosted them in the parking lot. They claimed we were aware of this even though we were not. The first we knew about it was when we were served the papers. Why hadn't they come back into the building and told us? Why didn't they call the police? Why didn't they do anything if the situation was so upsetting to them? Did they have to go home and think about ways to get money from someone they don't know, over an incident that couldn't even be proven, and they did nothing about? The lawsuit is still not settled.

The Coachman sold June 17, 2000. Our heart and soul went into this family owned American business. Remember that dream we worked so hard for, the one we were all spoon fed as children, assuring you that this is a free country and your hard work will be rewarded? Our children are now being raised to believe that they have no freedom of choice, you follow the rules shoved down your throat without any questions or comments. They are seeing their parents lives being eroded, and will carry this for generations of Government owned robotic citizens. Americans are quickly becoming mindless sheeple with no thoughts of their own. We will sit back and watch others lose rights while we silently thank God that it isn't one of our rights being tossed on the incinerator of freedom.

"The American Dream" is now officially a folk tale of days gone by. It has been replaced by "The American Nightmare."

Carol Hayes

Read more articles at
The United Pro Choice Smokers Rights Newsletter.