Monday, February 6, 2012

Smoking in restaurants

Smoking will be prohibited in all bars and restaurants within Morgantown and all of Monongalia County by March 12. After about four years of debates, the city of Morgantown passed a nonsmoking law back in June, and then Monongalia County passed their ban last month. To be consistent, one date was set to regulate indoor smoking. Monongalia County is the 20th to pass an indoor ban in West Virginia, and Morgantown is the second city.

Many advocates lobbied for this decision, such as Smoke Free Mon County, Smoke-Free West Virginia Communities, and the Breathe Easy Alliance of Morgantown.

Some bar- and restaurant-owners are happy with the decision, and have even implemented the ban already, ahead of the March deadline. "We're ecstatic," said Jared Riggleman, a manager at the Boston Beanery in downtown Morgantown, told WBOY. Boston Beanery went smoke-free in August. Mario's Fishbowl, a staple to the community, went smoke-free last year. Owner Mark Furfari told WBOY that "It's worked and it's worked well," owner Mark Furfari said. "We've seen some new faces and we've gotten a lot of positive feedback from all of our customers on that change."

Both the Beanery and Fishbowl set up areas outside for smokers that include tables, benches, heaters, and even a TV at the latter. Will this satisfy everyone? Of course not. Morgantown folks have been grappling with this issue for quite some time.

What others are saying:

Over at Erin Kelley's blog, she promoted 123 Pleasant Street being a non-smoking bar since the beginning of the year. She notes that one bartender in particular isn't making as much money as he had when smoking was allowed, so she encourages those who believe in a non-smoking bar to show their support.

On Sam Wilkinson's blog, The City of Morgantown, he notes the importance of the ban. He even commented on how Mario's Fishbowl was fantastic, but the smoking made it unpleasant. Mark Furfari himself commented and said they were to go smoke-free soon. Judging from his more recent comments, the ban seems to be working. Wilkinson actually posted another blog with even more compelling info.

Even commenters are, well, commenting on the issue, as seen over on Fork You's blog. "LAL" posted "Since Putnam Co. still allows smoking in restaurants and bars, there were several people smoking but we actually came out of there smelling like we’d been swimming in the deep fryer. I’ll go back, though, for the wings for sure." Seems as though he/she was anticipating smelling like smoke. Luckily (or maybe even worse), the deep fryer smell took over.

While I empathize with bar-owners and restaurant-owners who may lose business, I think the ban is the greatest good for the greatest number of people. For every eight smokers who die from smoking, one innocent bystanderdies from secondhand smoke. That could be another customer, a waiter or bartender, or a child who is dining with their family. I don't like those odds. And yes, I understand that it may be a private establishment, but it's not off-the-grid. It's in a town where other people live. And allowing those who developed a habit to trump the rights of those who do not doesn't seem fair. If you're doing something that could kill another person, it isn't fair.

And, really, businesses may gain customers who had previously hated the smoking. For a long time, I hated going to Gibbie's and leaving smelling like an ashtray. I've gone much more in the past month or so than I have in the past year. Maybe those people will balance out those who will be lost.

I think valuing the general health and well-being of the public is more important than the preferences of a few.