North Charleston rejects smoking ban
Employees at Smokey Bones wear T-shirts saying, “Not all smoking is bad,” but beginning Monday, smokers no longer may light up inside.
The Rivers Avenue bar and grill is one of a growing number that has decided to go smoke-free.
Other restaurants in North Charleston soon may follow suit, but only if they choose to do so, giving businesses the freedom to decide in a city that prides itself on its independent streak.
City Council voted 6-5 Wednesday to reject an ordinance that would prohibit smoking inside public places — much like bans that have been in place for years in Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Summerville and other towns.
Mayor Keith Summey resisted such a step, arguing that businesses should be free to settle their own smoking policies. He was joined by council members Ed Astle, Rhonda Jerome, Bobby Jameson, Dorothy Williams and Sam Hart.
Members Ron Brinson, Todd Olds, Bob King, Dwight Stigler and Michael Brown supported the ban, as did the bulk of the 13 people who spoke to council.
But they did not carry the day. Astle introduced a resolution urging employers in the city to establish smoke-free work places. It passed by a 6-5 vote, and Summey said a copy would be mailed to all businesses in the city.
Smokey Bones isn’t waiting for the mail. It has more than 60 restaurants nationwide, and its North Charleston site has been one of the few that still has permitted smoking, said manager Jimmy Myrick.
He has worked at Smokey Bones in Florida and Georgia, and was surprised to learn that his new location allowed it, even if only at the bar.
Most other corporate bar and restaurant chains in North Charleston already prohibit smoking, he said.
Danielle Dunn of Summerville works at Smokey Bones and embraces the change. She said her colleague, a bartender who is pregnant and concerned about the health effects of second-hand smoke, welcomes it too.
“The majority of people who come in here don’t even want to be around it,” Dunn said.
The same is true at Madra Rua, an Irish pub off East Montague Avenue.
Today, the pub has divided its interior into smoking and nonsmoking sections, but the cigarette odor doesn’t always stay on its side of the line.
“We’re talking about going non-smoking even if City Hall doesn’t pass it because we thought we’d gain more business than we’d lose,” General Manager Jenny Lee Ford said.
She said even some of her smoking clientele would back the change. “Who really wants to smoke?” she asked. “Everyone wants to quit.”
Most neighboring bars and restaurants allow smoking only outside.
While a growing number of local cities and counties have moved to curtail smoking, North Charleston continues to go its own way. The city has done so on numerous issues over the years, building a reputation that contrasts somewhat with the much older city of Charleston.
Kyle Gibson of Hanahan puffed on a cigarette Wednesday afternoon while expressing ambivalence about a ban. “I enjoy going into a place and not having it be full of smoke, even as a smoker,” he said. “A lot of smokers don’t like smelling like smoke or being around it all the time.”
His friend Bryan Naparlo said business owners should decide. “The government needs to stop putting its finger in places they don’t belong,” he said.
Madra Rua’s Ford said she has not contacted City Council on the issue, even though it would affect her business. Instead, she has planned on upgrading the pub’s outdoor area to accommodate smokers.
“I suppose if we thought it would hurt our business, we could take more action,” she said, “but we’re sort of resigned to the fact it’s going to happen anyway.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.