(10/10/2008)

Several smokers take a break outside The Rock
on Market Street in Spencer Monday evening.
Smoking is prohibited in bars since a health
department ordinance went into effect last week.

By David Hedges, Publisher
thetimesrecord.net

A smoking ban in bars that went into effect last week has caused some patrons to take to the streets.

They aren't marching to protest the smoking ban, although some might like to. But they are leaving the bars long enough to go outside, where it's still legal, and light up.

"Would you rather have us in here smoking, or a whole mob of us out on the sidewalk?" Roger Dickerson, a patron at The Rock, asked. That was before he and several others stepped outside, which they do on a regular basis.

Bar owner Sue Powell often joins the crowd as they stand outside the Market Street nightclub to have a smoke.

Powell said her customers have been going along with the ban since it went into effect Oct. 1.

"All my customers have been good about going outside," Powell said. "But it's pretty inconvenient.

"I don't like everybody having to stand around out front," she said. "I think it would be better if they were in here smoking."

County sanitarians are supposed to enforce the ban imposed by the Mid-Ohio Valley Board of Health in a six-county region.

Powell said she has not seen an inspector yet. She said she hears other establishments may not be following the ban.

"They haven't even been around," she said of inspectors. "If they want it done, they ought to be enforcing it."

Powell said she doesn't understand how smoking can be banned in a private club in the first place.

At her establishment, anyone entering the bar steps inside one door into a small area where they are met by a second door that is locked.

They press a buzzer to get past that door. The person working the bar checks a camera and then pushes a button to unlock the door and allow them inside.

"This is a members-only club, and I've got about 130 members, and maybe 20 of them don't smoke," Powell said. "They pay a membership fee, but they can't come in here and smoke. It just doesn't make sense."

Jerry Bailey, a non-smoker, said people are losing their freedoms.

"I don't smoke, but I make a decision to come in here," he said.

"Our boys are dying over in Iraq," he said. "My daughter served a year and broke her back over there. My son-in-law got shot twice. I lost a cousin just last week in Afghanistan.

"They're taking away our rights," he said. "They gave us the helmet law. They gave us the seat belt law, and now this. And nobody ever voted on any of it."

Another patron, Dinah Jarvis, said the ban in a private club makes no sense because only those over the age of 21 can enter.

"If we had a play area in here for little kids, I could understand it," Jarvis said.

"I can see why they don't let people smoke in restaurants," Pam Blosser said. "But when you go into a bar, it ought to be your choice."

Blaine Norman, co-owner of the other bar in town, Gilligan's Malibu, said it would hurt business, which will hurt the state and local governments that collect taxes.

"This is going to put a substantial number of businesses out of business," he predicted.

"We're kind of stuck because we own our building," he said. "We're talking about shutting down and selling our building, but this isn't exactly a seller's market."

"You just can't legislate morality," he said. "If people don't want to smoke, they shouldn't come in here."

thetimesrecord.net


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