Prohibiting smoking in a North Carolina restaurant used to be one of the hardest decisions an owner could make.
But that’s no longer the case after the state took the choice out of business owners’ hands when legislators decided last spring to stop allowing smoking in restaurants and bars.
The ban will go into effect Saturday.
Owners of restaurants that have already banned smoking say that owners of places that had still been letting customers smoke shouldn’t worry about seeing a major drop in their business.
When Cloverdale Kitchen restaurant went smoke-free in 2006 they initially lost some customers. Johnny Cortesis, one of the owners, said that the first week business was down some, but as word spread business started picking up.
“I had some angry people at first,” Cortesis said. “But they found their way back.”
Cortesis said he thinks that the ban will level the playing field among restaurants by making everyone deal with the new regulations. He said that other restaurant owners he has talked to have said that they are looking forward to the ban.
“There won’t be competition among owners as to who has the biggest smoking area or nonsmoking area,” he said.
Dino Cortesis, Johnny Cortesis’s brother and the other owner, said that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services sent restaurants a packet of materials explaining the new law and what restaurant officials have to do to get ready for the ban.
As of Jan. 2 all ash tray and smoking receptacles must be removed from inside the restaurant. Signs must be posted in prominent places in the restaurant. The restaurant will be fined if the signs are not in place.
Stratford Station Grill went smoke-free Oct. 5. George Kortesis, the owner, said that he had been considering banning smoking for about a year before deciding to go ahead and do it to make his customers happy. He said that the coming statewide ban was not part of the reason. Some customers were not happy with his decision.
“They felt like it infringed on their rights,” he said.
Kortesis said that initially business fell off some, but within a few weeks it had recovered.
Little Richard’s Bar-B-Que in Clemmons has been smoke-free for more than two years. Nick Karagiorgis, the owner, said that although it was a hard decision he does not regret it.
Shortly after banning smoking Karagiorgis said that one customer, an employee of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., threatened to put a notice on a company bulletin board telling other employees not to eat at Little Richard’s.
Then Karagiorgis started getting letters and phone calls from people thanking him for banning smoking.
Smoking will be allowed outside of bars and restaurants.
Karagiorgis said that at Mossy’s Eats Ales and Spirits, a sports bar that he owns, he is having a covered, heated smoking area built and hopes to have it finished by Saturday.
Karagiorgis said that because the ban applies to all restaurants there are no loopholes for someone to use to allow smoking.
“As long as everybody plays by the same rules, we should be OK,” he said.
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