Long-time Rimbey food server enjoys new, smoke-free working environment

  • Jan. 28, 2008 4:00 p.m.

Review staff

While smokers may still be grumbling over the provincial government’s imposing of an Alberta-wide smoking ban that came into effect on January 1 of this year, the same can’t be said of those who were forced to work in smoky surroundings, at least not for a long-time waitress at a downtown Rimbey coffee shop.

“Speaking for myself, I think it’s really awesome. I think it’s really too bad for the smokers and that they’re going a little bit too far as far as legislation,” said Renee Symanczyk who has worked in the Grand Hotel’s coffee shop for 32 years. “ I have never, ever smoked or anything, but like I said, I think it’s awesome for myself but I do feel sorry for the smokers.”

After ingesting second-hand smoke for years, Symanczyk said she was a bit worried about her health, but after a recent check-up, she found that everything, luckily, is fine and as a bonus, she doesn’t have to do as much washing anymore.

“My clothes don’t smell at the end of the day anymore,” she said in listing reasons why she enjoys a non-smoking workplace so much more. “Before I used to strip and into the showers right away and now I can go home and enjoy my afternoon. The air is much easier to breathe in, and it’s not blue anymore and you don’t have to swipe through the air to see.”

As for feedback from her smoking customers, she said they seem to be taking the new legislation in stride and added that she hasn’t heard very little in the way of complaining.

Not really, but they bug you bit,” she said with a chuckle. “But you take it all with a grain of salt. You bring them their meal and ask them if there’s anything else, and they’ll say, ‘yes, and can you bring an ashtray please’, but it’s all in fun.”

Prior to the imposition of the smoking ban, the Grand Hotel’s eating areas were divided into two different sections with smoking allowed in the front but not in the back dining room. Since the legislation however, that’s all changed.

“Non-smokers like it a lot better, especially back here,” Symanczyk said from the back area. “This area doesn’t have any windows and of course, they were relegated back here, which they didn’t like. Now that they can sit by the windows, they’re coming in. I even had people before Christmas saying they’d be back as soon as the non-smoking legislation goes into effect because they could sit out front and could see out the windows.”

Despite continual talk that the legislation would severely affect the bottom line of any business in the hospitality industry, Symanczyk said she hasn’t seen it yet, at least at her place of work.

“We have a lot more people now with small children that do come in. Before, they didn’t want their kids around the smoking.” She said adding that she hasn’t seen business tail off in any measurable way either.

“To tell you the truth, I haven’t really noticed a change. You get the same people coming in, but they don’t sit as long – the smokers don’t stay as long but they’re happy to come in and if they need a smoke, they go outside, have it and come back in,” she said. “But we have some of our smokers who sit for an hour or an hour and a half that don’t even move. To me it’s a thing that should have happened a long time ago.”

As for other people working in the industry – including the author of a letter regarding the issue that appeared in today’s edition of the Rimbey Review, Symanczyk said she empathizes with them.

In the letter, the author suggests that her tips – long the mainstay of food servers and a vital addition to their generally low income, have basically evaporated since January 1. “Tips were never a big issue, customer satisfaction is more of an issue for me than anything else,” Symanczyk said. “But on that fact, I wouldn’t doubt it. Usually a drink or a glass of beer goes hand in hand with a smoke, and I can see this happening in a lounge where everything is down. But it’s going to come around. They have to realize also, that this is a slow time of the year. We’ve gone through this for years and years – generally from about the middle of December to the end of February or the middle of March has always been a slow time of the year.”

Despite the fact that she is now working in a much healthier environment, Symanczyk said she finds the non-smoking legislation to be a bit hypocritical, especially when compared to another social evil.

“We talk about smoking, and I honestly feel they’re giving the smokers a bad rap,” she said. “But if you go anyplace they don’t ask you whether you want alcohol seating or non-alcohol seating, but if you go to a hockey game, you’ve got people spilling booze on you, you’ve got them throwing glasses and bottles – and that’s all fine. But nobody can have a smoke or they’re going to tap you on the shoulder and you’re out. But the liquor is fine.

“Myself, yes I am much happier working in a non-smoking environment, Everybody comes here for the good food and their morning coffee, not to have a smoke,” she concluded.