Smoking ban at bars and restaurants in Virginia begins

Puffing a Marlboro and sipping a margarita, Patty Turney sat at the bar for happy hour at Norfolk’s Colley Cantina.smoking indoor

She had only a few more hours to enjoy her cigarette. At 11:59, the staff planned to urge patrons to hurry up and “smoke ’em if you got ’em. ”

Starting to day, smoking is banned in most bars and restaurants across Virginia. The legislation, signed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in March, allows patrons to smoke only on a restaurant’s outdoor patio or in a separate smoking room with its own ventilation system.

Colley Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood, won’t allow smoking at all.

“It’s a bit restrictive,” said Turney, a regular. “It’s nice to have a place to come and have a cigarette and a cocktail.”

Virginia will join 23 states that ban smoking in restaurants. Owners and diners who violate the ban will face a $25 fine.

Some restaurant patrons look forward to returning home from a night out and not smelling like an ashtray.

“I think it’s great,” Pauline Grehawick said as she got up to leave Kelly’s Tavern, just down the street from Colley Cantina, on Monday night.

“Speak for yourself,” said her husband, Greg - a smoker.

His wife responded: “I just don’t like what it releases in the air for the nonsmoker. The odor, and it’s cancer-causing. I don’t want that.”

At the next table, smoker Noreen McCarthy said she will think twice about where she goes out to eat, but she doesn’t see the new law as a huge problem.

“It seems like there aren’t that many smokers anymore,” she said. “Mainly because we can’t afford it.”

Some local restaurants and clubs have found a way around the ban and were able to add an additional room or convert outdoor patios into smoking areas.

At Mom’s Kitchen and Scandal’s Night Club in Virginia Beach, the restaurant already has two separate rooms - a diner and a bar.

Starting today, smoking will no longer be allowed in the restaurant and will be limited to the nightclub area.

On Monday night, a handful of regular customers lit up at the bar and watched a football game.

David Coates, who’s been smoking at the nightclub since it opened 25 years ago, is grateful cigarettes will still be allowed. If they weren’t, he said, he probably wouldn’t come back.

“If a bar’s not going to allow smoking, I won’t be there,” he said. “As long as people aren’t blowing smoke in your face, I don’t see why it’s an issue.”

Smoker Mark Kehayas agreed.

“Basically, we are once again giving our rights to the government,” he said as he ate dinner with his family. The ban is going to kill the bar business, he said, especially small bars that could not afford to create a separate room.

“I imagine until we quit smoking,” said Kehayas, “we will eat at home a lot.

By Jaedda Armstrong
December 1, 2009 Hamptonroads

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