Although many restaurants in Columbia County say a new ban on indoor public smoking hasn't hurt them, there are still some business owners who say they're worried about how the ban has affected them so far.
The SideTrack Bar & Grill has posted a tongue-in-cheek warning to motorists of smoke coming from the patio in the wake of the new smoking ban inside all public buildings in the county.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"I can tell you that it has killed our business,'' Ronda Gray, who works at Finish Line Cafe, said Wednesday, five days after the ban went into effect. "I've made in three shifts what I make normally in one shift.''
At the Rack & Grill on Old Petersburg Road in Martinez, day manager Barbara Baughman said the ban, which applies to most indoor locations in the county, also has taken its toll on those who simply want to play pool at her business.
"It's slowed it down a lot,'' she said. "The first day it didn't look really that bad. Yesterday (Tuesday), it got a little worse. And today, it's dead still. So I guess each day is getting worse and worse.''
Then there's SideTrack Bar & Grill on Washington Road in Martinez. A sign in front of the business displays how the new ordinance has changed the way they now do business: "Caution/Smoke coming from patio,'' the sign states.
Chuck Large, the owner of SideTrack, jokingly said Wednesday that he put the sign up "so they (motorists on Washington Road) can't sue me if they get into a fog and have an accident.''
Large said customers who want to smoke have been directed to the outside patio. So far, he said the ordinance hasn't caused much of a problem for his business because of the patio option and temperatures in the 70s. Still, he wonders how long that will last.
"The weather may have a big impact on me, and I just don't know yet,'' he said.
Other restaurants, such as Fatz Cafe in Evans, have reported no problems yet with the ordinance.
Richard Harmon, of the county's building inspections department, said Wednesday his department had received only one valid complaint concerning a restaurant that did not enforce the smoking ordinance on Jan. 1, the first day the ban went into effect. He said the restaurant, Huddle House in Evans, has since had no reports filed concerning the ordinance, but he said the complaint has been forwarded to the county's health department.
Harmon said any complaints regarding restaurants will be handled by the health department. Harmon said the health department was contacting Huddle House concerning the complaint to give a verbal warning.
Overall, he said, the ordinance has gone over well.
At the Columbia County Commission's most recent meeting on Tuesday, three private clubs were granted exemptions from the ordinance as part of an exception to the ban regarding private clubs or military clubs that meet certain criteria.
Those groups that received the exemption were: VFW Post 6445 on Wrightsboro Road, West Lake Country Club and American Legion Post 192 in Evans.
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