Smoking ban gets mixed reviews locally

Published 3:48 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Smoking ban gets mixed reviews locally
by Leah Justice
The new smoking prohibition for North Carolina restaurants may have upset smokers, but it could help some local businesses.
Effective Jan. 1, a new North Carolina law bans smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars. Locally that ban has brought a different clientele to some restaurants.
Employees at Elmos Pub and Grill in Tryon say most smokers are understanding of the new law. A few people have tried to light up, they say, and had to be told not to and a couple of people have been caught trying to smoke in the bathrooms, but no real issues have come of the new law so far. Signs are being ordered to let people know about the new law.
Elmo’s says the recent frigid weather has been unfortunate for smokers, who are now forced to go outside to smoke.
Elmo’s employees say the bar business may decrease because of the new law, but the food business has increased, with different people coming in to eat.
Before the law went into effect, the restaurant was cleaned to remove residue from many years of smoking from the walls, ceilings and other areas.
Elmos plans to set up a sidewalk station for its smokers to more comfortably smoke outdoors.
Sidestreet Pizza and Pasta employees say so far the prohibition has been helpful for the bar side of the restaurant. They say some customers have commented that theyve always wanted to sit in the bar area because of the televisions and atmosphere but never did before because they didnt want to be around smoke.
The bar on a recent night was full of families with children in the bar area, which was not a normal sight prior to the new law.
Sidestreet has signs hanging on every door and bathrooms to alert customers of the new law.
Other local restaurants are seeing the same mixed reviews. Employees at TJs in Tryon say the smokers are not happy about the new law, but new customers seem to be coming in who wouldnt otherwise. The smoking section at TJs was normally not full before the new law, according to employees, but now more of the tables seem to be filling up.
The Waffle House in Columbus has seen a drop in business since the new law, but employees say that also could be a result of the recent cold weather. Many customers were used to coming in to drink coffee and smoke, and quite a few of them aren’t coming anymore, employees say. Some customers have commented that they will simply go to Waffle Houses in South Carolina, where smoking is not yet prohibited.
The new law requires no smoking signs in visible locations and all indoor ashtrays and other smoking receptacles must be removed. The law prohibits smoking in public places, including inside state government buildings and state vehicles.
Individuals who continue to smoke in a nonsmoking area after being asked to stop either verbally or in writing will be found in violation of the law and could be fined up to $50. Restaurants and bars found to be in violation will receive a written notice following the first violation and after the third violation could be fined up to $200.
Private establishments may still allow smoking indoors. Some cigar bars are also exempt from the new law.
Complaints can be registered anonymously by calling 800-662-7030, by visiting to report the county, facility and violation type, or by calling the local health department.

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