August 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)   No-Smoking Law Sends Group Packing
Rochester, Minn.
Rochester, Minn. A  dispute over a new nonsmoking law in Rochester, Minn., has caused a major group gathering to relocate.

In 2000, the American Veterans (or AmVets) chose Rochester as the site for the group’s 2005 convention, with the proviso that members would be able to smoke at the meeting. “When we send out specs, we tell them smoking is non-negotiable,” said Linda Ann Tucker, executive meeting planner for Lanham, Md.-based AmVets.

However, a citywide no-smoking ordinance passed in November 2001. The AmVets decided to move to a more smoker-friendly site, claiming Rochester officials had never provided them with revised hotel and convention center contracts.

The group began rebidding its 5,000-room-night convention in late 2002 and informed the Rochester CVB this past April that the convention would be relocated to Kansas City, Mo.

Still, the CVB worked hard to salvage the deal. Hotels agreed to convert more guest rooms to smoking rooms and diagrammed private dining areas where the group could smoke. The AmVets weren’t aware of these efforts, however, and felt ignored by the CVB.

Interestingly, Kansas City also might impose a smoking ban by the time the AmVets arrive. If a ban were to be instated, Tucker said she would seek an exception for the group. “We’d petition the city to waive the ordinance, since we have signed contracts that allow for smoking,” she said.


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