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Smoking ban not all bad; kiwi elucidation

At Ben's Family Restaurant in Brandon, the front area was for smokers and the back room was for nonsmokers, and they used to get quite a few smokers.

Then owner Ben Crisler put up the no smoking signs, and everyone told him he was going to lose business.

But Ben's is doing just fine two years later. You see, long before this week, when restaurants were forced to comply with the new state law banning smoking in public places, Crisler took it upon himself to end smoking in his establishment on State Road 60.

Despite the predictions of gloom, Crisler, a former smoker, banned the habit. Mark Crisler, Ben's son, tracks revenue on a computer, so in the first month they could tell that business actually increased 6 percent.

After 12 months, the increase was even more significant: 12.1 percent.

"As far as I know, we only lost two couples who were regular customers," Ben said. "All the rest who were smokers, even though they left for a day or two or a week or so, they eventually came back and started eating our food."

Ben told me about his success with the ban months ago, but I was reminded of it this week after reading about all the gnashing of teeth among smokers and restaurateurs. I can only hope folks eventually will understand that servers, cooks and hostesses deserve a smokefree workplace just as much as anyone else.

Trust me people, it's going to be okay. Just ask Ben.

The new sign near the Howard Frankland Bridge for drivers going eastbound toward Tampa is almost laughable:

"CAUTION: Congestion Ahead 4 to 7 p.m."

Sure, its accurate, but so is a sign that says "Heat Expected from April through October." Tell me something I didn't know.

I guess a few tourists might be surprised to find a congested highway in the middle of rush hour _ a few _ but the sign seems pointless beyond that. Anyone who has lived here for a day knows what to expect, and acknowledgement does not make it any more bearable.

Ready for an update on Tampa's new mayor? WEDU will review the first 100 days of Mayor Pam Iorio Tuesday at 8 p.m. The show will be replayed July 12 at 6:30 p.m.

Pull out your scorecards so you can track who's new to the lineup, and who's been put on waivers.

It's a little bird to some, a little fruit to others, and recently it was a little otter at the Florida Aquarium.

But to folks in New Zealand, kiwi is not exactly a little thing. Kiwi is a flightless bird native to New Zealand, and it's how New Zealanders refer to themselves. So naturally my boss, a native of New Zealand, received some good-natured ribbing when it was discovered that the aquarium recently rehabilitated an otter named Kiwi.

For the record, the tasty fruit should be referred to as kiwifruit, not kiwi. According to, kiwifruit was originally known as Chinese gooseberries because it originated in the Chang Kiang Valley of China. It was exported in the early 1900s, and first came to the United States in 1904 before arriving in New Zealand in 1906.

The New Zealanders were the first to recognize the commercial value of the gooseberry. In the 1960s, kiwi growers officially adopted the label kiwifruit to make it sound more palatable.

I tell you all of this just in case there were any kids who saw the otters at the aquarium and are now mistakenly thinking a kiwi is an otter and not a flightless bird.

Make sure you get it straight, or believe me, I'll be writing about this again.

That's all I'm saying.

_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or