Local News

Smoking ban now in force in bars, restaurants

Posted January 2, 2010 5:57 p.m. EST
Updated January 3, 2010 10:15 a.m. EST

— If you want to light up while sipping coffee at a diner or a beer at the neighborhood bar, you'll now have to take it outside in North Carolina.

A new law took effect at midnight prohibiting smoking inside essentially all restaurants and bars in the state. The Legislature and Gov. Beverly Perdue agreed to the ban back in May. Enforcement began early Saturday.

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.

Enforcing the law will be driven by complaints from the public.

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.

Inspectors will give a restaurant at least two written warnings before imposing a fine.

Smoking has always been prohibited at Tobacco Road Sports Cafe, at 222 Glenwood Ave in Raleigh. Co-Owner Brian Amra said Saturday that he is not surprised smoking is now banned at all restaurants and bars.

"We knew this was coming,” he said.

Amra said being smoke-free has not hurt business. Nevertheless, some restaurant patrons are not happy about being told they can't smoke inside.

"I don't like the government coming in and telling me what I can and cannot do," Chuck Farnhar said.

Farnhar, who used to be a smoker, said while he doesn't like the law, he does think it might do some good.

"There are better things to spend money on. ... We will all get healthier, they say," Farnhar said.

Outside restaurant or bar patios are exempt from the ban unless they have a roof and a wall or side coverings on all sides or all sides but one.

Sales associate Nelson Kent said the Lowe's Home Improvement store in Cary is seeing a surge in large propane heater sales. Restaurant and bar owners are buying the units in an attempt to take the chill off their customers as they go outside to smoke.

"Right now, we have some on order, but we are currently out of them," Kent said. "They don't buy just one; they buy multiple ones. That is why they are hard to keep in stock."

Nonprofit private clubs that serve food or drink such as country clubs and those run by fraternal organizations, such as Kiwanis and the Elks, largely can permit smoking. Hotels and inns can still set aside 20 percent of their rooms for smokers.

Cigar bars are exempt when they meet several requirements, as well as hookah bars that neither provide food nor operate a bar.

The owner of Hookah Harar Cafe, in the Mission Valley shopping center in Raleigh, said he believes that his business and others like it should be exempt from the ban.

To comply with it, though, he said he will continue to sell tobacco and allow customers to smoke in a designated area inside the store. No smoking will be allowed in his restaurant next door.

Health advocates say the ban will protect workers and patron from secondhand smoke inside pubs and eateries. The passage is another smoking restriction in a state that remains the nation's leading tobacco grower.