Downtown Restaurants Adjust to Smoking Ban
BY HANNAH MILLER
On Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg, cigarettes line the curb and cover the dirt below the planted trees along the sidewalk. The indoor smoking ban in bars and restaurants has been in effect in Virginia for almost two months, drawing smokers outside to light up.
Despite the change, some restaurants and bars downtown have not seen much of a difference since the ban took effect on Dec. 1.
“[We have] not noticed any change in business, [and] no differences in sales,” Capital Ale House General Manager Kevin Abley said.
According to Abley, the only notable change since the ban has been an increase in traffic of people going in and out to smoke.
Since Capital Ale House opened in November 2008, its policy has always been no smoking until 9 p.m., according to Abley.
“With the ban, there is now no smoking at all,” Abley said.
According to Abley, the only vocal people about the ban have been the smokers.
According to the Virginia Department of Health website, environmental health inspectors from the local health department enforce the ban and determine compliance during routine inspections.
Virginia bars and restaurants are required to post “no smoking” signs, remove all ashtrays and other smoking paraphernalia from all smoking prohibited areas of the restaurant and assess whether any separate smoking rooms comply with requirements of the law.
Along with separate smoking rooms and outdoor areas, private clubs defined as “exclusively for club purposes or events solely for recreational, fraternal, social, political and benevolent or athletic purposes” are exempt from the ban, the Virginia Department of Health Web site states.
The ban also applies to bingo halls, bowling alleys and skating rinks unless they cease to prepare and serve food, according to the Web site.
While a large cigarette urn stands outside the restaurant, there are still a good amount of cigarette butts the staff regularly sweeps up, he said.
As a business manager, Abley said he supports the smoking ban.
“Our staff was subject to cigarette smoke,” he said. “[The change will be] good for the health of the staff.”
Freshman Aissata Traory, a self-described “regular smoker” also supports the ban.
“I worked in a restaurant and people constantly complained about smoke from the bar,” Traory said.
Sophomore Breon Campbell, a non-smoker, shared similar sentiments.
“I love the new law. I always got irritated when I would go into restaurants and smell smoke. I didn’t want to smell smoke while eating food,” Campbell said.
Sammy T’s, another downtown restaurant, already had a separate room with its own entrance for smokers before the law took effect.
“The law was almost like it was written after us,” Jimmy Crisp, the general manager at Sammy T’s, said.
According to Crisp, Sammy T’s has had a separate smoking room for about 20 years. Because of the already established smoking room, he said Sammy T’s has picked up more smokers since the ban’s enforcement.
However, Crisp said Sammy T’s has to obtain a permit for their smoking room with the ban in effect.
“When the inspectors came, along with the permit, we had to add an attachment that draws fresh air into the smoking room,” Crisp said.
According to Crisp, while the restaurant is in the process of getting a permit and the new attachment, smoking is currently banned in what will be the smoking room.
A few blocks away, Capital Ale House has no plans for a separate smoking room, according to Albey.
“This building is not conducive [for a separate smoking room] and we support the smoking ban and will stay non-smoking,” he said.
Crisp predicted that a total ban on smoking in restaurants-without exceptions -will eventually be enforced.
“It’s going overboard to ban smoking everywhere, especially outside,” Crisp said.
Traory has many friends who do not smoke and thinks about their health when it comes to smoking.
“If I am with friends who don’t smoke, I don’t smoke around them,” Traory said.
“I try not to leave if we are in a restaurant. I usually will smoke when we are walking outside.”
Traory said that non-smokers should not be subjected to the second-hand smoke of others, and she urged smokers to understand the health of those who do not smoke.
“I can see how other smokers could take it personally-that they can’t smoke in bars or restaurants-but you have to think of other people’s health,” Traory said.