Smoking Ban Legislation

By: Kelly Creswell Email
By: Kelly Creswell Email

It failed last year, but Governor Tim Kaine wants to try it again. Monday, he proposed to ban smoking in restaurants across the Commonwealth, and some restaurant owners are prepared to keep the smoking outside.

While there are some restaurants in Harrisonburg that have already gone smoke-free, there are others that currently keep ashtrays at the tables, though those might soon be history.

At Ham's Restaurant in Harrisonburg, smoking is restricted to the bar area. However, the owner, Tim O'Neill, says he wouldn't mind if smokers had to go outside to smoke.

"Smoking is not very healthy for you, but I still think it's legal, and I still think there should be an avenue or a place for people who want to smoke. I mean I think the outdoor, open air part is perfect," says O'Neill.

On the other hand, the Artful Dodger's owner, Chris Clark, made his restaurant smoke-free in April of last year, just days before Kaine's smoking ban legislation failed. He says his business has actually increased by 25 percent.

Even if the new legislation fails, Clark says he's still going to keep his restaurant free of cigarette ashes.

"We wanted to make a statement about becoming smoke-free for the Artful Dodger, and for the community, for the staff, for the customer base that we serve," says Clark.

Both restaurant owners say banning smoking can be hard to balance with customer satisfaction, because they not only have to worry about their customer-base, but also worry about their employees who may have to work in a smoky environment every day.

"We've had people who couldn't work here and leave us because of the smoke. Some people were allergic to it. We've lost a couple employees like that, because they just couldn't deal with the smoke. So I think yes, it's great for the employee and it's often the people that are not thought about in this situation," says O'Neill.

Unlike the attempt last year, Kaine's proposed legislation doesn't ban smoking completely. Instead, it offers a compromise for smokers, so that if they want to go outside and smoke, they're free to do so.


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