Friday, November 30, 2007

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em … Unless You’re At Churchill Downs

The energetic Vice President of Communications and Top Email Generator of Churchill Downs, Julie Koenig-Loignon, sends regular updates on everything Churchill and/or Twin Spires. I always thought she provided this service because she enjoyed reading my blog. Silly me. Horse racing has nothing to do with these little email updates. It’s all because I have a share or two of stock (CHDN).

Earlier this month, I received notice that smoking would be banned inside Churchill Downs as of November 25, 2007, in compliance with a Louisville ordinance that smoking is not permitted inside any bar, restaurant, bingo hall, bowling alley, or public building; basically, it excludes one's house (but what about public housing??). Louisville government officials came to the conclusion a couple of years ago that Al Gore wasn't crazy after all and the air quality really could use some improvement, and that smoking, in general, is not good for you.

Apparently, Churchill Downs, the Hallowed Grounds of American Horse Racing, site of the most prestigious race, which you may or may not of heard of, the Kentucky Derby, multi-million dollar revenue generator for Louisville and Jim Beam and Mint Juleps, had managed to finagle an exemption in the smoking ordinance. Gambling, liquor, and cigarettes – which vice do you eliminate?

So, Churchill Downs’ Champion Lounge remained a smoking friendly atmosphere. That is, until a couple of restaurant and bar owners in the neighborhood, who by the way probably benefit financially from Churchill Downs sometime around the first weekend in May, said, “Hey, wait a minute … if we can’t have smokers in our establishments, they shouldn’t either.” Needless to say, on October 12th, Judge Denise Clayton ruled that the exemption to allow smoking at Churchill Downs violated the equal protection clause in the state constitution.

Customers of the smoking persuasion at Churchill Downs are now only permitted to smoke outdoors. Now, that’s not so bad on a nice sunny afternoon when there is live racing. However, year-round simulcasting is generally not considered an “outside” entertainment source. In an attempt to provide concerned racing enthusiasts of both the smoking and non-smoking kind factual information, I contacted Julie Koenig-Loignon:
Our customers are permitted to smoke out of doors. That includes our many balconies, in the outdoor seating areas and on the "bricks" around the paddock area. These areas are adjacent to our simulcast wagering area. The Louisville smoking ordinance does not cover smoking out of doors, so those areas remain available to our customers.

There is a balcony right outside the Silks and Champions Lounges. Also customers in the simulcast-wagering area can step out into our outdoor, box seating areas. All are in close proximity.

I asked Julie Koenig-Loignon if Churchill Downs anticipated a financial effect as well as a change in attendance figures. She provided the following,
We do anticipate a negative impact on handle and attendance, as we draw customers from both Kentucky and Southern Indiana. There is an off-track betting facility in Clarksville, Ind., (just across the river) that does permit smoking indoors. Our Florida track, Calder Race Course, experienced declines in handle after a smoking ban was instituted in Calder's community in 2005. At this point, we cannot forecast what the financial impact will be. We are doing our best to educate our customers on where they still can smoke at Churchill Downs, which is out of doors.

I also inquired as to whether Judge Denise Clayton was a smoker or had ever been to Churchill Downs, however Julie Koenig-Loignon did not know.

Anyway, Churchill Downs is abiding by the courts decision. Signage in the Champions’ Lounge alerts smokers of the policy change. Ashtrays are strategically placed outside of the building. No word as to whether simulcast monitors and tote machines will be available in the elements for the smoking bettors, but Julie Koenig-Loignon infers that bettors can easily make a wager prior to a race, step outside for a quick drag, and pop back inside prior to post time. Also, it is unknown at this time as to whether plans are underway to schedule a future Handicapping / Smoking Cessation Seminar with Mike Battaglia.


Big Brother said...

That does it, Sis! I'm not going to Churchill least until I quit smoking.

Oddly enough, you can't order a drink at the bar inside of the Jack Daniels Distillery (Lynchburg, TN) either. The state passed a special law just so they could sell expensive souvenier bottles of whiskey in the gift shop.

suebroux said...

I researched this issue with great fortitude, resiliency, and martinis, to provide you the much needed information that you, Oh Great Big Brother Who Probably Should Have Given Up The Smokes Years Ago, would require if you were, indeed, to go to Chuchill Downs.

The research entailed a stop at a seldom-visited blog, written by some guy in Louisville. He had some strong feelings regarding the smoking ban, and you, of all people, can appreciate his reasoning,

I would like to remind the Metro Council that they are stepping on our constitutional right to smoke. ... The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. Now what type of arms were they referring to? Firearms. And when you smoke what do you have, fire. And you also use your arm to smoke. They also can kill people. Therefore, cigarettes, cigars, etc, are arms covered by the second amendment which we have the right to bear and use.

Joe said...

I wished they would ban smoking at Lone Star Park too....

Post Time Pavilion gets really bad at times.... I know it keeps me home wagering on except when they open 2nd floor of the Grandstand for non-smokers when the track is dark

Big Brother said...

Ah, for the good old days when you could sit down in a bar and enjoy a couple of martinis and cigarettes with your cardiologist.

So I'll quit anyway. And with my luck I'll probably meet my demise at the hands of a city bus while on my Saturday morning jog.