Where there’s smoke, there’s ire

Published 8:54 am Wednesday, April 1, 2009

FRANKLIN—Restaurateurs here aren’t worried that business will go up in smoke once a ban on lighting up goes into effect this winter.

The Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act will ban smoking in the state’s restaurants and bars beginning Dec. 1. Virginia now will be one of 34 states to enact some type of smoking ban in restaurants but one of only a handful to go as far as to limit smoking in bars.

“I don’t think I am going to lose any customers,” said David Rabil, owner of Fred’s Restaurant. “People like to come out and they’re going to come out, regardless. Hopefully they come here for the food, the atmosphere and the way we take care of them.”

Rabil pointed to a 6-foot by 21-foot seating area of the restaurant that is now reserved for smokers. Above his head, a smoke-eater hummed as he explained plans to possibly put in a wall and close off the space for smoking patrons.

According to the law, bar and restaurant owners who want to continue allowing smoking in their establishments must construct separately ventilated rooms.

“I’m not sure this is going to qualify as a separate ventilation system or not, but hopefully it will work,” Rabil said. “If not, they’ll just have to go out to the patio (and smoke).”

On the patio, server Cecelia “Silly May” Darden took a smoke break and lamented the new law.

“It really puts (David) between a rock and a hard spot,” she said. “Businesses should be able to allow customers to smoke or not. It should be up to them.”

Across town, Becky Malloy sat at the Applebee’s bar on Armory Drive puffing and protesting.

“I think smokers should have rights, too,” Malloy said. “It’s outrageous.”

Sitting next to Malloy, Bill Clark agreed.

“It’s terrible. People should be able to smoke in a bar. You go to a bar to relax, have a drink and smoke.”

The manager declined to comment.

Estelle Stradley, who owns Dockside Restaurant, said her eatery was established nearly a year ago as nonsmoking.

“We thought it was a good idea,” she said about the policy. “You just don’t want to offend people. We’ve only had one customer complain and get up and leave.”