Sweet Tooth, clean lung on plate for local eatery

By ANDREW J. CREMATA

The Sweet Tooth Cafe is a great place to go first thing in the morning. While dreams from the night’s sleep still swirl in the mind you wait for that first cup of coffee. A panoramic photo of Skagway from 1916 hangs above the north wall of tables where ketchup in a bright red squeeze bottles sits next to a half-full bottles of Tabasco sauce. A parade of pink and sky-blue artificial sweeteners marches in line, trailed by non-dairy creamers on their way to their morning caffeine sacrifice. In between the assorted jellies and a glass sugar container sits an object, which has become the center of a controversy that has swept across the nation.
The sight of the simple ashtray gets some people motivated for that first morning smoke, for others it has become the personification of evil, the emblem of the infringements of one group’s rights over another’s.
The Sweet Tooth Cafe will become a non-smoking restaurant on April 2. This comes at a time when many state and local governments have imposed higher taxes on cigarettes with some choosing to ban smoking indoors altogether (see sidebar below).
Because everyone is either a smoker or a non-smoker, it is not hard to form an opinion on the subject. Skagway is no different. One Sweet Tooth customer who wished to remain anonymous stated, “I don’t think it’s a good idea. I feel bad for the people in non-smoking because we’re so close (in proximity). I think a lot of us won’t come, but I don’t think it will hurt their business.”
This customer’s friend added, “This is my little smoking place. This is the only time of day I smoke.”
Another smoking customer, who wished to remain unnamed, wasn’t quite as diplomatic. In between puffs they growled, “Everyone wants to ban smoking. I don’t like it one bit. It’s stupid. If we’re trying to protect people’s lives why don’t we ban automobiles and airplanes?”

Sweet Tooth owner Colette Hisman sits in the non-smoking half of her restaurant. On April 2, the sign will go up on the front door. AC

Others see the issue as encompassing a broader scale. One smoker who didn’t mind having her name used, Angie Cremata, sees pollution in the restaurant environment where even second-hand smoke can’t penetrate.
She said, “Someone who pours on their perfume violates my sense of smell much worse than someone who smokes. I’m allergic to most perfumes and the smell makes me lose my appetite. Many people with cell phones haven’t learned to use them courteously. Why is it that someone on a cell phone talks loud enough for the person on the other end to hear them without the use of the phone?”
She continues, “Don’t get me wrong, I am for the banning of smoking in restaurants but I would also like to see the banning of cell-phones.”
The new rule is a popular one with the waitresses of the restaurant. Joanne Worley, a longtime server at the Sweet Tooth who recently quit her smoking habit, echoes the opinions of the floor staff.
She stated, “It’s about time we did it. Some days the entire non-smoking side will be full of people eating and only one table will be occupied in smoking, and they are just drinking coffee and smoking. It’s not fair to the waitress on that side. We have had customers leave complaining on the smoke.”
When asked how she thought it would affect summer business, she summed it up, “In the summer some of the summer workers may be upset. All the Diamonds International crew comes in pretty regularly and they all smoke. Still, many tourists come in and they can’t believe we still allow smoking.”
So where is a smoker to go in a town with only two restaurants open during the winter?
Matt Smith, the owner of the Corner Cafe, and a smoker himself, has an answer. When asked about his opinion on the new Sweet Tooth policy he said, “More business for me. You enjoy a cigarette with coffee in the morning or right after you eat.”
The Corner Cafe caters more to the smoking crowd with the non-smoking section relegated to back room of the restaurant. Smith adds, “It is her call (Colette Hisman’s). If it wasn’t a hassle (allowing smoking) she wouldn’t get rid of it.”
Julie Gagnier, a server at the Corner Cafe, sums it up for the Corner crew: “We would lose half of our winter business if we banned smoking.”
Gagnier also related a story from eight years ago when Eileen and Dan Henry owned the Corner.
“We wrote on the specials board that we were going non-smoking on April 1st. Customers were outraged. One even cussed me out while banging their fists on the counter. I stressed that the change would be on April FIRST, but they still left in a huff.”

Corner Cafe’s Matt Smith enjoys a cigarette during a break from flipping burgers. His restaurant will continue to welcome smokers. AC

April 1st is of course, April Fools Day.
Colette Hisman did not want any confusion so she chose April 2nd as the date for the change. Hisman has owned the Sweet Tooth for 27 years this September, and it has always been a smoker’s friendly restaurant. Why the decision to change things now?
Sitting in the non-smoking section sipping on a cup of coffee Hisman explains, “We are here for food and beverage. When everybody smokes you have to ventilate. Sometimes it’s thick. In the winter it’s worse. It is uncomfortable for the people who don’t smoke. We have to do what we can for the people who are eating.”
Hisman offers an illustration, “You don’t go to a theatre and talk because you are there to watch a movie. Our primary obligation is to the people who are eating.”
She continues, “Our primary reason for doing it now is it gives everyone a whole summer to get used to it. We have to think about the majority. More and more tourists are complaining because so much is non-smoking down south. Any pollution which interferes with food and beverage should be restricted.”
When asked about cell phones Hisman smiles and says, “Don’t get me started.”
She pauses to laugh and continues, “You can’t control everything. The top of the list is smoking.”
Hisman wanted it stressed that she is “sorry for the inconvenience to the smoking public, but it’s time to make the change. We’ll do whatever we can to make it easier, aside from giving them a cigarette.”
April 1st will be the Sweet Tooth ashtray giveaway. Hisman stresses that you get yours “while they last.”
City Manager Bob Ward applauded Harris for speaking up for the opposing view. Too often, he said, a preponderance of people speaking up for something in a room will deter others from speaking against it.
Catsi then clarified that he did not really support the mock resolution. “But if I had told you it was a joke, you would have treated it that way.”

Where there’s smoke, there’s ire ... in the Yukon
On January 1 of this year the city government in Whitehorse, Yukon initiated a smoking ban in all restaurants. While environmental groups applauded the decision, many restaurant owners are outraged by an apparent lack of insight when adopting the plan.
Bobbie Kufeldt of the popular Talisman Restaurant in Whitehorse is one such owner. In between taking orders and ringing up checks she takes some time to address the issue. With a scowl she relates, “They make up the laws and don’t realize the impact on businesses. We have all lost our entire coffee crowd.”
While losing the “coffee crowd” is not a major issue in a low-population area like Skagway, Kufeldt sees it as detrimental to restaurants in Whitehorse. She explains, “Two restaurants have already shut down, we are off 48 percent here, and some restaurants which cater to adults almost exclusively are off 75 percent.”
Why is this happening? Apparently when the Whitehorse City Government passed the ordinance for restaurants they did not include bars. As a result, bars that used to open at 11a.m. for liquor sales are now opening at 7 a.m. for the sole purpose of serving coffee. This has restaurant owners reeling with contempt over a perceived lack of fairness in the application of the law.
Kufeldt believes it should be fair for everyone and is fighting City Hall for what she calls “pro-choice.”
She would like to see the decision taken out of the control of politicians and put back in the hands of restaurant owners. Or at least leave the decision up to a public vote.
Addressing the assembly at City Hall she states, “The law appears to suit a few people who lobby for environmental issues. Where are they now? As business owners we believe that we have the freedom of choice in operating our businesses.”
As of now, the Whitehorse City Government has ignored her requests.
Next January 1t, bars will be required to go non-smoking as well. Until then Kufeldt stresses she will not stop fighting for the rescinding of the amendment. – AC & Whitehorse Star reports