Owners say smoking ban snuffing out business

York County Council members were faced with a tough crowd Tuesday night: around 100 angry bar owners and customers who wanted nothing but the freedom to light a cigarette indoors.

Only two were given a chance to speak during a meeting that lasted around an hour. But dozens of people flooded the lobby long before the meeting began.

They include people such as Steve Lipe, whose private Rock Hill bar Ponderosa is in danger of closing after he says a countywide smoking ban enacted last May ran off more than half his customers.

“It’s killed our business,” said Lipe, bar owner for 47 years.

“But it’s a private club,” he said. “If you don’t want to smoke, don’t join the club.”

A group of war veterans brought the same message to council. They have spent eight months stepping outside to smoke at Rock Hill’s American Legion and VFW posts, and they’re tired of it, said Bill Hancock, a criminal law attorney who took the podium Tuesday night.

Hancock related the smoking ban to prohibition in the 1920s, when alcohol was widely outlawed.

“Pretty soon, it’s going to be easier to get a marijuana cigarette than a tobacco cigarette,” Hancock said.

He told the council that the public and business owners in the community should have the right to choose.

Buddy Motz, one of seven county councilmen who approved the ban last year, replied: “Mr. Hancock, is it your choice to speed 80 miles an hour on a 65-mile-an-hour road? To light a fire in a theater? There are a lot of restrictions people have in society. This is one of them.”

Motz stood by his vote last February to ban smoking from public York County establishments, reminding the crowd of people Tuesday night that smoking causes health problems.

Tuesday’s discussion, led by councilman Paul Lindemann, centered on whether private bars that require memberships and have age restrictions should be exempt from the smoking ban. Such an exemption would include the American Legion and VFW posts.

Although the vote to ban indoor smoking was unanimous among council members last February, County Councilman Tom Smith asked to amend the ban to allow smoking in bars that don’t employ workers younger than 21 or permit any minors inside.

Smith said he feared the ban would hurt small bars, where most of the customers come to smoke and drink. But he couldn’t find any council support for the changes.

“I would like to see smoking go away totally,” Smith said. “But that’s not what we have. We don’t have a perfect world.”

Lindemann came nearly a year after the ban was approved Tuesday to ask for the amendment.

“We have folks that have been established for 20 years that are losing their businesses, losing employees,” he said. “Taxpayers are going to end up paying for it. … This is just another demise of big government.”

Closing the discussion, Motz told Lindemann: “It would have been helpful if you would have made that speech when you approved this ordinance.”

Not all bar owners protest the smoking ban, and some bars in York County were smoke-free years before the ban went into effect.

Amy Bovender, general manager at the Six Pence Pub in Fort Mill, always has run a smoke-free business and said smokers usually have no problem going outside on the patio or roof.

“Our customers love the fact that they can come in and enjoy a drink and not be asphyxiated by cigarette smoke,” she said last February in support of the ban.

Nearly one year later, she said her opinion hasn’t changed.

“I opened as a nonsmoking establishment,” she said, “and if the ban reverted back, I would stay a nonsmoking establishment.”

“It’s a huge step forward,” Bovender said before Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s all these warnings out there for smokers. Maybe they need to start heeding them.”

County Council did not vote on the amendment Tuesday because County Councilman Curwood Chappell was absent from the meeting.

source: www.heraldonline.com

Similar Posts:

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!