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Businesses react to ban
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MONROE - Tavern owners are setting up separate areas to entice smoking customers to keep coming back since the state smoking ban took effect July 5.

Three Monroe businesses, so far, have received city building permits to add outdoor beer gardens, and the Monroe Common Council has approved the additions to their liquor license descriptions.

Leisure Lanes, Bartels & Company and Papa Don's Horseshoe Saloon have been approved, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2312 is in the process of meeting the requirements, according to Carol Stamm, Monroe city clerk.

Are beer gardens for smokers working to keep customers coming in?

So far, Dan Goepfert, co-owner of Leisure Lanes, at 2308 6th Ave., is pleased.

Leisure Lanes is building an attachment on the south side of the building, just off the bar.

Although not completely finished - the window screen frames have to be installed, and there are no plants inside - customers aren't waiting to use the area.

"Friday night, there were more people out here than were at the bar," he said.

Leisure Lanes' outdoor patio is 300 square feet and mostly enclosed. It is furnished with three tables and 12 chairs, with plenty of standing room. And if customer use is any indication, stapled screening across the window openings will do just fine for now.

Goepfert said the plans to build the addition were ready when the law took effect, but getting building permits and council approval took the more time than building the smoking area. The concrete floor took a week to cure, and contractors took one more week to put the addition up.

Rhonda Bartels, owner of Bartels & Company, on the downtown Square in Monroe, had to meet additional requirements of the Historic Preservation Commission to put a 16-by-16-feet deck on the back of her tavern. The deck, which will be attached to the east side of the building, will have a roof, a privacy fence on the north side and stairs leading to the alley.

"It will make the front of the Square more appealing, so customers won't have to walk through smokers (in front of the bar)," Bartels said.

Mary Kuehl, a Bartels & Company customer, likes the idea.

"I don't smoke," she said, "but it's a nice idea. I have a lot of friends who are smokers."

Kuehl said she would join her smoking friends, even though they would be outside.

"Oh, sure," she said. "Why wouldn't I? They're my friends."

Mary Lepper at Papa Don's Horseshoe Saloon, which has been in business for 15 years at 1901 10th Ave., Monroe, said her husband, Don, is installing a fenced beer garden.

The 13-by-19-feet area will be located just off the southwest corner of the building.

It is Papa Don's immediate answer to the state smoking ban.

"Business is slow enough the way it is, let alone your customers being driven away," she said.

Lepper said the area was "definitely" for their smoking customers. About 80 percent of the customers at Papa Don's smoke, she added.