Smoking in restaurants

By Candace Nelson - 10:00 AM

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.

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2 comments

  1. I respectfully disagree. I work in a bar, and I am a non-smoker. However, I knew when I began working there, that I would be exposed to smoke. It was something I accepted. On my own time, I know that going into a bar, I may be exposed to smoke. I certainly don't visit bars for my health either. The days I do not wish to be around smoke, there are a wide variety of bars I can visit that do not allow smoking voluntarily.

    The major issues with this passing is the Board of Health are appointed officials. They are not elected, and the measure they pass are not up for public vote. At the hearings concerning the smoking ban, their arguments were consistently long the lines of "I don't like it, therefore is should be banned." My workplace collected many signatures, offered alternatives (such as bars that have 20% in revenue or less from food sold may have smoking, to cover the bar and grill sub-sector), and banded together with other local bars, but all of it fell on deaf ears.

    The second issue is a clause in the measure that essentially states that the bill must be followed in spirit, rather than in letter. That is, if you find a loophole, you can't use it. To do so would result in heavy fines. This could raise potential legal issues.

    The third is the limiting of business growth portion. Exempt businesses, such as cigar bars and hookah bars, are not permitted to expand their business beyond the square footage they currently occupy, and only existing businesses are exempt. No new smoking-oriented businesses will be allowed. This falls right in line with the Board of Health's decision not to issue new liquor licenses a number of years ago, apparently in a spree to crack down on vices, which history has told time and time again does not work.

    Also, if I am correct, the measure also includes a no-challenge clause, stating that the measure cannot be challenged in court, which is unconstitutional, and the bill would fall in light of that alone.

    So that is my thoughts on the matter.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Erica,

      Thank you for taking the time to produce a well thought-out comment on the issue. And, although I respectfully disagree with your opinion, I thank you for bringing my attention to some of the issues.

      I hadn't heard of this "no-challenge clause," and if it does exist, I agree that that is not ideal. And I see your point on the other issues you listed, as well.

      Thanks again for your comment.

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