http://www.herald- dispatch. com/news/ x300695548/ Bar-owners- seek-way- to-fight- smoking-ban
HUNTINGTON -- The idea of smoke-free bars and video lottery parlors is frightening for a group of business owners who will meet next week to discuss the Cabell-Huntington Health Department's proposed smoking ban.
Opposition to the ban among bar and video lottery parlor owners has gained momentum since the announced last month that it would consider an expansion of its existing smoking regulation, said Denise "Cricket" Hudson, who owns the Downstreet bar in the 2300 block of Adams Avenue.
"I know the health department wants to look after the health of people who work in bars, but how are my employees going to make a living if this ban passes and I'm forced to shut down my bar?" Hudson said.
Hudson has helped organize a meeting of bar and parlor owners, smoking patrons and anyone else who opposes the proposed ban at , at VFW Post 1064, 920 7th Ave. The purpose of the meeting is to strategize how bar and parlor owners can reach a compromise with the health department, she said.
Hudson said the health department should be aware of the financial ramifications if it bans smoking in bars. She estimated more than 90 percent of her customers smoke, and many already have said they won't come back if they can't light up.
"I think I have about three or four regular customers who don't smoke," Hudson said.
Under Cabell County's existing regulation, smoking is banned in restaurants and all other public places. Bingo halls that have more than 100 cards, personal care homes and establishments where alcohol represents more than 80 percent of sales are exempt from the regulation.
The proposed regulation would extend the smoking ban to all bars and video lottery parlors. That includes outdoor patio areas that are attached to bars, said Dr. Harry Tweel, director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.
The health department is taking written comments on the proposed regulation through and will host a public hearing on it . Feedback will dictate whether the Cabell-Huntington Board of Health votes on the measure at its meeting or whether it needs more work, Tweel said.
Comments thus far have varied, but it's too early to gauge whether they lean to one side or the other, Tweel said. The health department, however, has received several requests this year from Marshall University students to ban smoking in bars, he said.
A potential negative economic impact is always used to oppose , but the argument rarely pans out, Tweel said.
There are 19 other counties in West Virginia where smoking is banned in bars, and none has seen a significant decline in business after the regulations are adopted, Tweel said.
"The argument is always an economic one, but there's no true argument there," he said. "The primary concern of the health department is the health of individuals who frequent bars and the employees who work in them."
Gary Stanley, who owns three bars in the Huntington area, said a loss of business isn't his only worry about the proposal.
"How is this going to be enforced?" he said. "Am I supposed to call the police if someone lights up in my bar and refuses to put it out?
"I'll uphold the law to the point that I'm required to as a citizen and a bar owner, but the health department doesn't have the right to make me the Gestapo."