Alcohol + tobacco = contractor opportunity

June 1, 2000
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Every industry deals with its own regulatory problems. Case in point: licensed beverage vendors, those bars, taverns, and restaurants licensed to serve alcohol.

  According to the National Licensed Beverage Association (NLBA), California’s no-smoking laws have raised concerns that other states may follow suit, to the chagrin of the hospitality industry. Several local smoking bans already are in place.

In California, “Many businesses have failed” because of the ban, said Debra Leach, NLBA executive director. This is primarily because smoking consumers who frequent such establishments now often opt to stay home.

“We need to show the government that there are options,” said Leach. And the most viable option is to improve ventilation and filtration in licensed beverage establishments.

To this end, the association has established an initiative called “atmospherePLUS,” to help licensed beverage facility owners learn more about filtration and ventilation options.

According to Leach, the hotline (set up by tobacco company Philip Morris) is connected to outside consulting firms. Facility owners are promised a call back from a live consultant within 72 hrs, to discuss the owner’s specific needs and concerns.

Mistrust of contractors

One of those concerns, said Leach, is a fear of being taken advantage of by contractors.

She added that this fear is based on the owners’ ignorance of their own systems, and that “They have practically no relationship with contractors.” And those they have worked with may have been the “back-of-the-van guys,” whom customers seldom see twice.

The hvac equipment installed in most of these facilities was designed for monthly maintenance, which may have happened twice a year at best.

This in itself would play a major role in degrading bar and restaurant IAQ.

Hvac contractors can set themselves up to work with these business owners and keep them as long-term customers if they’re willing to provide some education, Leach said.

Also, “They prefer businesses within the community.” It just gives business owners a stronger sense of security if you’re located in the same town and they see your company take part in community activities, Leach said.

Hvac contractors interested in pursuing this potentially lucrative market need to be up-to-date on the latest IAQ technologies for filtration and ventilation.

IAQ technologies sway legislation

According to Scott Roberts, national sales marketing manager, Honeywell, Minneapolis, the manufacturer’s “new technology addresses particulate and smoke. It is similar technology to gas masks” that “negates the effects of second-hand smoke.”

(Honeywell is a key sponsor of atmospherePLUS.)

Roberts said that knowledge of such technology can influence legislation. He cited a proposed smoking ban in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., that would have been disastrous for the recently built casino. Honeywell presented information on its IAQ technology, he said, and the city government was persuaded not to pursue the ban.

Roberts said today’s IAQ products incorporate HEPA and sorbent technologies, in standalone, in-duct, and ductable air cleaners. However, the equipment needs to be part of a general IAQ-, comfort-, and energy-based solution that takes into account temperature, humidity, and demand-controlled ventilation for CO2 levels.

A clever contractor could include an energy analysis to show how the new system would pay for itself, in addition to increased business and potentially lower staff turnaround.

With regards to ASHRAE IAQ Standard 62-89, which recently removed the allowance of any smoking as a factor in system design, Roberts commented that “ASHRAE wants to assume smoking is not happening.” He said the manufacturer is working with ASHRAE “to recognize improved air from product application.”

The big picture, said Leach and Roberts, is the potential for air in bars to literally be cleaner than air on the street, and for patrons and employees alike not to come home smelling of smoke. Who knows — the food might even taste better.

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