A Tirade about Property Rights at Kokomo’s Island Cafe in the Mall of America

by Matt Snyders

Introduction: Matt Snyders, a reporter at City Pages, decided to spend an entire week at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, and write an article about it. By the sixth day, he was experiencing boredom and sleep deprivation. So, at Kokomo Island Cafe, he “hunkered down on a barstool and chatted up the bartenders: Kristen, a bubbly blonde; Brittany, her brunette duplicate; and Jason, a wiry little guy with a quick laugh.” Someone brought up the subject of the state-imposed smoking ban at Mall of America and other public facilities. Let Snyders tell the rest of the story.

“Alcohol mixes with sleep deprivation mixed with the restlessness of being cooped up for six days does strange things to a person’s inhibitions. It doesn’t just lower them; it grinds them into the floor and leaves a three-foot deep crater of neurotic rage. It was time to take what I drunkenly assumed to be a principled stand. I demanded a cigarette from Brittany.

‘I thought you don’t smoke,’ she said.

‘Just give me a cigarette.’

Cigarette in hand, I stumbled over to each patron, one after the other, and asked if they minded if I smoked. ‘Yeah, go ahead,’ some said. Others were more into the spectacle and shouted variants of ‘do it!’ Once I got everyone’s blessing, I stood in the middle of the floor and held the cigarette to my nose. ‘Do it, already!’ the crowd roared.

I lit the cigarette to the inebriated cheers of a few onlookers. I was soon raving.

‘People say this law is about smokers’ rights versus nonsmokers’ rights, but that’s not what this is about!’ I bellowed. ‘It’s a matter of principle. It’s a matter of property rights!’

An uncomforable silence descended. You could almost hear the record scratch. ‘It should be the owner’s call whether he wants smoking or not, not ours. Not the city or state goverment’s. Even if our intent is good, what kind of arrogance makes us think we have the right to someone else’s property?’ I took an exaggerated drag from the cigarette.

A few people clapped, probably because they figured I’d shut iup if they showed me approval.

Unfortunately, I didn’t.

‘There’s a lot of this shit going on right now. Saying we should give up liberty for security. Saying we should give up property rights for health reasons. It’s all bullshit. Can’t you see? You can’t be truly free when you’re constantly trying to control everyone else.’

‘Sir?’ It was the manager, Nick, standing beside me.

‘Just wait. I’m not finished - ‘

‘Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to put that out.’

‘Sure, I -’

‘Come with me.’


He pulled me aside. ‘I’m going to have to ask you to leave,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to see you in here for the rest of the week.’

I told him, okay, you’re just doing your job, here, have the rest of my beer, don’t worry, I’m not sick or anything.”

Comment: Reporter Snyders has captured here the quintessential loneliness of the property-rights advocate. In the summer of 2006, he attended a meeting of Metro Property Rights Action Committee in preparation for writing an article on the City of Minneapolis’ closing of Uncle Bill’s Food Market in north Minneapolis. It was an excellent article - one of the best written anywhere. And now Snyders has taken his journalistic talent to the famed Mall of America to sample its slices of life.

From “Mall of Amerisize Me” by Matt Snyders, City Pages, November 28, 2007, pages 13 & 14.



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