A Cup To Pick With Heine Brothers’ Coffee.

A Bone Cup To Pick With Heine Brothers’ Coffee.

I like going to Heine Brothers’ Coffee houses. There are several located around my house at varying distances that accommodate my energy to ride a bike on a given day. I like the fact that they are local. I like the fact that I can buy Heine Brothers’ gift cards at a 20% discount at Costco. The coffee is stronger than I make at home, but I suppose that’s the way most serious drinkers like it and I am learning.  I like to go there, not just for the exercise and coffee, but because the cafés offer a get-a-way place with good internet connection that allow me to think and write without the innumerable distractions of things undone at home. (I am writing this in a Heine Brothers’ shop!) The staffs are friendly and responsive with but a single disappointment to me that is not of their doing. I am referring to failure to enforce the company’s own no-smoking policy– a directive to staff that side-steps Henie Brother’s own management policy!

This has never been an issue for me indoors, nor in winter. However, in fair weather the outdoor patios are as welcoming to smokers as they are to non-smokers (or former smokers like me). Often the outside air is filled with unpleasant amounts of smoke. I have come to recognize tables filled by regulars who smoke constantly and chat loudly as they spend morning or afternoon hours at their meeting places of choice. (If I still smoked, I might too!) Unlike what is typical of addictions to opioids or alcohol, the smell of smoke does not entice me to re-do the break-in period it took for me to get used to tobacco. It does however spoil my experience at Heine’s. I confess to not knowing what Kentucky law requires concerning smoking in public spaces. I appreciate that the extent of governmental or public health power to restrict smoking in public is continuously under debate, fueled by industry interests. I do accept that exposure of second-hand smoke is hazardous to physical health. I offer that it is not the responsibility of any patron to advise smokers of restaurant policy– indeed that leads to unpleasant encounters that are in no one’s interests.

I brought up this concern at least four Heines’ shops. I was told early on that the outdoor areas are already posted as non-smoking areas. Indeed, some are, with signs so small I did not notice them, or not at all in public areas appropriated by Heine Brothers’. I was also informed that staff were directed to enforce the prohibition “gently” which in this case seems to translate into not at all. I thank Heine Brothers’ for at least appearing to support good public health policy, but their unwillingness to back up their words with any apparent meaningful action turns their business policy-position into a sham. I asked staff at my favorite Heines’ to pass my concerns up to management. I do not know if they felt comfortable doing so. Nothing has seemingly changed in the last four months. I therefor offer this personal advice to Heine’s. Please be consistent. Either remove the no-smoking signs, or enforce them. Taking away ashtrays is an insufficient response.

There are other coffee shops I can use. I have begun to explore them. I still have some money left on my Heine’s gift cards and have not yet given up on them. I feel a little bad about targeting this to Heine Brothers’ specifically. I suspect that a similar business dilemma exists at other coffee or public houses which must address the risk of losing some customers against an unknown gain in others who might wish to smoke on the premises (or not). I do not know how other establishments handle what in my opinion is a health issue. I encourage my readers to voice their opinions one way or the other at their favorite coffee houses or other public facilities where no-smoking signs appear to be ignored with impunity. There are many alternatives out there and we drinkers or smokers deserve to feel comfortable. We can and should vote with our feet.

Peter Hasselbacher

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