Restaurants prepare alternatives for smoking patrons
Posted December 23, 2009 6:27 p.m. EST
Updated December 23, 2009 6:57 p.m. EST
Fayetteville, N.C. — A statewide ban on smoking in most restaurants and bars takes effect on Jan. 2, and businesses are trying to make arrangements to take care of longtime customers who smoke.
Chris's Steakhouse in Fayetteville, for example, is building a patio out front for smokers to replace the wood-paneled room inside where they now go to light up.
Manager Greg Kalevas said the restaurant can't afford to lose its smoking customers, so it had to pay a hefty price to accommodate them.
"A lot of people got upset – a lot of customers – because they can't be able to smoke," Kalevas said. “I’m trying to support my customers."
Smokers spend about 30 percent more on drinks than non-smokers, he said, noting, "Smoking and drinking go hand in hand."
At the Highlander Pub and Cafe, employees said the ban could actually breathe in more business from non-smokers.
"(They said) they would be coming in after the ban because there would not be smoking here," bartender Terry Hartline said, noting people will be directed to a back parking lot to smoke.
Businesses that break the no-smoking law can be fined up to $200 per day, and smokers themselves could get burned with a $50 fine if they keep puffing after they're told to stop.
Cumberland County Health Director Buck Wilson said enforcing the law will be driven by complaints from the public.
"It's important that the public let us know if they are not eating in a smoke-free environment. They should call us, and we'll look into it," Wilson said.
To file a complaint, people can call the local health department, complete an online form at the SmokeFree.NC.gov Web site or call the N.C. CARE-LINE toll-free at 800-662-7030.
Still, Wilson said, local inspectors will give a restaurant at least two written warnings before imposing a fine.
Private clubs and cigar bars are exempt from the smoking restrictions.