Dear Governor, Part I

Author: Robert Prasker
Article Published: 13 March 2009

Why should government buy broken banks and mortgages, when it could buy the suffering bars and restaurants it has declared to be "more profitable" in the wake of smoking bans?

One restaurateur in Ohio has asked the governor to put the state's money where its mouth is.

Not long ago, an Ohio restaurant owner and devotee of FORCES shared a letter with me that he'd sent to Ohio's Governor Ted Strickland.  I was impressed by this letter. The author eloquently expresses the problems that anti-smoking regulations impose upon private entrepreneurs. Also, through his perspective as a restaurateur affected by the smoking ban, he provides clarity regarding America's current financial crisis and the federal government's actions in response.

The author of the letter below prefers to remain unnamed, and doesn't consider himself to be "a writer". Nonetheless, one would be hard-pressed to find an editorial or newspaper column that so efficiently sets itself upon the beating pulse of present issues of concern to FORCES, as well as others with libertarian sensibilities.

I asked the author if I could write about his letter in my FORCES column, and he agreed. I approached the column a few times and attempted to add to his words, but I ultimately found that I was adding baggage onto something that was said quite well in its original form. So I asked the author if I could simply reprint his letter, and he again agreed.

Thus, while I'm using my columnist's space here at FORCES to share this letter, keep in mind that the words are not mine, but words straight from the heart of a man whose livelihood is at stake. Also, the author's proposition to the governor shouldn't be taken as tongue-in-cheek; he is quite serious.

If what is good for us is to be dictated to us, and what is dictated to us is also for the greater good, then the author's proposition is quite sound — effectively, since the state needs money, and since business is supposedly still prosperous under the state's smoking ban, it only follows that the state should buy his business. 

While government is bailing out effectively bankrupted banks, auto manufacturers, and homeowners, why shouldn't the government also buy a restaurant that it has declared to be successful in the face of a smoking ban? Why should a private business owner be forced to do the government's work, when the government believes it knows how to run a business better than the proprietor?

Our restaurateur's correspondence with Governor Strickland's office has continued since this letter. I'll follow up on it in future columns.

Gov. Ted Strickland
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6108

Re: Economic Rescue

Dear Governor Strickland,

The decisions our legislators make in the upcoming 2009 session of the Ohio General Assembly to address the expanding economic crisis will define the future of small business in Ohio for decades to come. We are among thousands of small business owners that make up the bulk of the American economy, and we are dealing with the same economic damage wrought by both the credit and housing crises that have ravaged those larger corporations as we reluctantly contact you today. The economic contraction precipitated by this crisis has forced small business owners all across the state to initiate cost cutting measures in every facet of our operations that might not have otherwise been necessary; but for many, even those measures will likely not be enough to save their businesses.

Unlike the prestigious name brand multi-billion dollar Banking and Auto industries, we felt the pinch of reality long before these corporations, that after years of mismanagement, came calling on congress with hat in hand seeking salvation at the direct expense of the American taxpayer.
We saw this inevitability beginning December 6, 2006.

We run a small family restaurant in Highland county. We are currently on the threshold of bankruptcy due to the national “economic crisis” which is currently being exacerbated here in Ohio in no small degree by the statewide Smoking Ban. Were it not for this overly ambitious and burdensome regulatory scheme, the economic crisis would not be cause enough for us to write. We are not looking for a handout or even, as the Mayor of Philadelphia expressed it in a pan-handling plea to the Federal government, “a hand up”. We are looking for a way out.

Out of a business environment that is now dominated and driven by rent-seeking special interest groups determined to profit directly at the expense of small businesses in every state where such regulatory schemes have been enacted, and at the expense of every individual state economy where their pseudo-prohibitionist message is spread. Until the implementation of ORC 3794, “The Smoke Free Work Place Act”, we faced no substantial threat to our business. We offered something that many other area businesses had been pressured to deny: a warm comfortable place for people that choose to smoke and their friends to share good food and drink, and commune together in peace. That is no longer the case. Our business closure would mean obvious job losses, as well as additional losses in sales from suppliers to the business.

We’ve always believed in a consistent business model, even if it meant passing up the patronage of those who’ve been conditioned to avoid the smallest touch of tobacco smoke. Our model offers Free-Choice: nothing that is illegal, immoral, evil, or wrong in any sense or degree.

We are now at serious risk of failing in that most basic responsibility of our stock in the hospitality trade, accommodating the public with a choice that matches the personal preference of each individual potential patron. Alienating 23% of the adult population in the state is not helping the economy grow and the state needs to recognize that its future prosperity is directly tied to the health and well being of its small business community and that community’s ability to provide the goods and services to its citizens that promote and expand the statewide economy. Reducing the number of choices is counter-productive.

The hospitality and leisure industry currently accounts for more than 500,000 service related jobs within the state. More than 15 BILLION DOLLARS in sales is generated in Ohio through Eating and Drinking establishments each year.  Subtract the spending from a majority of the 23% of the population now discriminated against by law and the immediate negative economic impact is clear. People aren’t spending where they’re not welcomed.

If deregulation is not forthcoming, then rather than join the ranks of those businesses currently clamoring to be U.S. corporate welfare recipients, we are requesting that the State of Ohio purchase our business and property outright for the appraised fair market value as it existed at the onset of the current regulatory scheme, plus inflationary adjustments.

This is a legitimate proposal and offer for sale. Approximate value; $250,000.00

We would much prefer to operate the business as the restaurant we initially opened 5 years ago, but we have no desire to enter into corporate or personal bankruptcy by continuing to operate the business on behalf of the State as a re-education center for individuals that choose to smoke. Thus we believe our best option is to provide the State and their questionable NGO partners the opportunity to purchase and run the business any way they see fit. If the regulatory scheme, as claimed by Smoke Free Ohio,”causes no harm” to businesses affected by it, then the State of Ohio would be remiss in their fiduciary responsibilities to allow this financial investment opportunity to pass.

If your antismoking partners are telling the truth, then the purchase of our own and other similar businesses could only be a benefit to the state. I urge you to seriously consider this plea for help, and offer for sale. We simply can’t continue to wait for all those non-smoking customers that were never coming in before the ban was implemented, and that have yet to make an appearance to date. This ordinance has destroyed and is continuing to destroy our businesses and our lives. Purchasing the business would be a positive first step by the state in addressing the economic disaster caused by abandoning the Free Market / Free Choice system of economic development in favor of over regulation and limited consumer choice.


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