Local News

Some business owners say limited smoking ban is unfair

Posted April 3, 2009 11:26 a.m. EDT
Updated April 3, 2009 6:29 p.m. EDT

— Restaurant and bar owners whose businesses don't qualify for an exemption in a proposed smoking ban said Friday that they will fight the measure, up to filing a lawsuit in federal courts.

"The bill in its current form is a very bad bill and very unfair," said Richard Gussler, owner of The Players' Retreat in Raleigh.

The state House of Representatives on Thursday passed an amended H.B. 2, which would ban smoking in all workplaces where children are permitted. Businesses that admit only adults could allow smoking if they post signs advertising that.

Gussler said that the ban would create unfair competition against his tavern, which has served parents and their children and hosted kids' birthday parties since the 1950s. He said he's installed devices to filter out secondhand smoke.

"This has always been a family place, but if I chose to keep it a family place (with) no smoking, I don't think I can survive being in business," he said.

Gussler said that he and other restaurant owners have thought about pursuing a federal lawsuit against the bill if it passes, but all means of fighting it are still on the table.

Cigar-bar owner Brian Amra said that a blanket smoking ban would have forced him to close Amra's Stogies & Spirits, but he called the amended bill simply the lesser of two evils.

"How can they regulate free will?" Amra asked. "I'm not arrogant enough to think I can tell people where they can smoke and where they can't."

An adults-only venue such as Ess Lounge and Nightclub could benefit from the reduced competition, but owner Marlane Kintworth said she still has reservations about the smoking ban and its exemption.

"I don't know that it would be fair for all the bars that would be affected," Kintworth said.

The bill has moved to the state Senate.