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ELKHART -- Walter Abramson walked out of the Cock-A-Doodle Cafe one recent morning in need of a nicotine fix and someplace else to have breakfast.
He could no longer smoke cigarettes inside the Nappanee Street restaurant, so he decided not to eat there either.
"I don't like all this stepping on smokers' rights," Abramson, who lives south of Elkhart, said of the citywide smoking ban that takes effect today.
To his dismay, the Cock-A-Doodle Café went smoke-free a few weeks ahead of the deadline.
But inside, to owner Jack Kenney's surprise, the change has boosted business. For every smoker like Abramson whom he may lose as a customer, Kenney said, he has gained four new nonsmoking patrons.
"It's been a pleasant surprise, a nice blessing," said Kenney, who originally opposed the ban.
Ever since the legislation began its move toward passage by the city council, bar and restaurant owners -- and their customers -- have aired their views about wiping out tobacco smoke in public places and workplaces in Elkhart.
Now that the smoke has cleared, critics and supporters of the ban are watching how the prohibition will play out as it comes onto the books.
The ban applies to nearly every indoor venue that is open to the public, including restaurants. Bars that receive a waiver have until May 2009 to go smoke-free.
Gene Butterly, a Cock-A-Doodle regular and truck driver from Youngstown, Ohio, said he didn't feel strongly about the smoking ban. He noticed that the air was a little fresher than in the past when he ate there, but the convenient location and good food were his main reasons for stopping by once a week.
"It doesn't bother me either way," he said of the smoking ban while sitting at the diner counter and finishing a cinnamon roll.
At a nearby table, Bruce Shayne and Cindy Lakowski, a couple from Phoenix, said it was about time that Elkhart stubbed out smoking.
Arizona has a statewide smoking ban.
"We're really for it," said Shayne, who stays in the Elkhart area when he shows dogs at competitions in the region. "We would rather go to a restaurant that's smoke-free."
Lakowski added, "You might get a different clientele, like those little old ladies over there." She pointed to a table with four elderly women. "But I think it's much more pleasant."
Restaurant owner Kenney, for one, has been pleased.
Since going smoke-free in April, the eatery has posted sales about 25 percent higher than those at this time last year, he said. Older patrons have flocked to the restaurant, and this Mother's Day was the most profitable Sunday since Kenney took over more than 10 years ago.
He attributes the uptick in business to customers who appreciate the smoke-free atmosphere.
Originally, as city officials were weighing whether to approve the ban, Kenney was among the business owners who opposed it because he saw the legislation as government interference with free enterprise.
"I thought for sure I'd be out of business in six to eight weeks" once the ban took effect, he said.
Rather, he decided to make his restaurant smoke-free earlier than required because he had cleaned the carpet, washed the walls and taken other steps to freshen up in preparation for the ban.
"Factories around me are laying off, but in a bad economy I'm up 25 percent just because of the change to go smoke-free," Kenney said. "I think little places like mine are going to notice a big difference."
But Oscar Gibson, who owns The Big Easy lounge, suspected that the change might hurt some businesses.
Gibson was among the chief critics of the smoking ban, and his doubts have not subsided.
"I think it's an owner's right how to run their business. It's individual people's right to choose to go into a place where there is smoking," Gibson said. "Now the city has taken that right away from people."
About two dozen lounges and bar-and-grill establishments that exclusively serve customers who are at least 21 years old have received certificates from the city granting them a one-year exemption from the smoking ban.
To qualify, some businesses, including Gibson's, had to make the decision to eliminate all-ages family dining and to admit only people 21 years and older.
The choice was clear at The Big Easy, where the great majority of patrons are adults, Gibson said, but he worried how other businesses would cope.
"I think it will cost the smaller businesses that rely on smoking, like your mom-and-pop cafés," he said.
City Councilman Brian Thomas also worried about the ban's effects on small restaurants, particularly those located near rivals in unincorporated areas of the county where smoking will still be permitted.
"I don't like creating these little pockets (of competition), and that's why it would have been great if the county had done something," said Thomas, R-2nd.
County government leaders have said passing a countywide smoking ban is not a priority for them, and officials in Nappanee -- the only city in Elkhart County without a ban -- are mulling the idea there.
Elkhart officials had considered granting bars an open-ended exemption from the ban until a countywide or statewide law was passed. In the end, bars got a one-year reprieve.
As Thomas sees it, the Elkhart ban leaves the city at a loss for how to enforce it. Which city departments will respond to complaints? Will they respond on-site immediately? Will businesses police themselves?
"I think there's just going to be some places that look the other way" and improperly allow smoking, Thomas said.
The city's Building and Code Enforcement Department is expected to take the lead on enforcing the ban, said that department's director, Dennis Mann.
Mann's staff will respond to phoned-in complaints during normal business hours Monday through Friday at City Hall. After hours, police may respond.
"People are going to call in complaints, and we'll go out and investigate the complaints," Mann said.
Anyone who files a complaint will be asked to sign an official sworn statement that the city will use in prosecuting violators.
Mann didn't anticipate the need for much enforcement. When the city of Bloomington went smoke-free, there were about 150 complaints in the first three months, he said.
"After that, the person they hired to enforce it had to be let go because the complaints dropped off," Mann said. "I think we won't need a lot of enforcement when people get used to the law."