Saturday, January 22, 2011

Smoking and liquor -- has it affected Ferndale businesses?

An area bowling lounge owner wrote the Detroit News to complain the smoking ban has hit his businesses hard.
I looked up all of the bowling centers in Oakland and Wayne counties and found that almost all of them were down anywhere from 15 percent to 55 percent in liquor purchases from the state.

For example, Thunderbowl in Allen Park, which is Michigan's largest bowling center and the country's second largest bowling center, is down 46.9 percent in liquor sales.

My own company figures verify this information. My controlling revenue number is the bowling activity, which is down slightly less than 10 percent, which can be due in part to unemployment, the economy and weather; my lounge revenues are down 17 percent, with the difference attributable to the effect of the smoking ban.

It is nearly impossible to extrapolate with certainty that lower sales are attributable to smoking and not the area's economy.  But according to Comerica's chief economis, Dana Johnson, Michigan's recession started in 2003.  And if we've arrived at the bottom, as some experts claim, then sales would be flat, not falling.

Our business is down about 10%, and while painful, we will survive." writes Paul Stuart, owner of Luxury Lanes 16 on Nine Mile in Ferndale."

Paul knows the letter writer, Mark Voight well.  Mark told Paul that as the weather got colder his sales were "a disaster."  That is the time when most smokers will tire of standing out in the cold and paying a premium for food and beverages, when they could both save money and stay warm eating, drinking, and smoking at home.

The economy might help keep people away, too, and may also change folks' drinking habits, by switching from relatively expensive mixed-drinks to less-expensive beer and wine.

But that may not be the case.

Paul Stuart wrote, "The beer drivers tell me all I need to know.  Some bars locally that used to sell 30 cases of Miller Lite per week now sell five."

[Note: We could invite a few neighbors over and polish-off five cases in a weekend of college and NFL football--but smoking is permitted in the garage.]


Here are numbers from a quazi-random sampling of Ferndale favorites, comparing 2010's January - November sales to 11/12ths of 2009's.
Elks Club
Boogie Fever
Luxury Lanes
Magic Bag
Club Bart
As far as liquor sales are concerned, some venues actually saw sales increase, among them were New Way and Comos at 6.7% and 7.24%, but the big winner was Howe's Bayou at 17.53%.


  1. Bosco and the Magic Bag have been smokefree for several years now, even before the state smoking ban took effect, so their sales drops were NOT due to the smoking ban. This makes me question whether ANY of the decreases were due to the ban.

  2. That's an interesting point. We would have to look at prior years' sales to see if their going smoke-free affected them and last year was simply a continuation of a pattern.