SULLIVAN'S ISLAND — Although Bert's Bar will close after today, the business has not dropped its suit against Town Council challenging a ban on indoor workplace smoking, an attorney said Thursday.
Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson last December upheld the town's smoking ordinance, and Bert's appealed. "Our client intends to continue to prosecute their appeal," said attorney Brad Waring. "We claimed from the beginning and argued in the lower court that the ordinance would significantly affect our client's ability to remain in business, and that is what has occurred," Waring said.
A state Supreme Court hearing next month could lead to a decision that would mean Bert's appeal is no longer necessary. The city of Greenville has appealed a ruling by Circuit Judge John Few last March that the city's smoking ban is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case Jan. 9.
Waring said Jefferson's ruling on the Bert's Bar case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, but no date has been set for a hearing, so he assumes that the Greenville case will be heard first. "Should that occur, and the court uphold Judge Few's order, we believe that would also strike down all other similar local ordinances and moot our appeal," Waring said.
Bert's owner Tim Runyon has said that the smoking ban hurt his business, but he cited a four-fold increase in rent as the primary reason for closing the bar, a fixture on the island for more than 20 years. The island Town Council approved the ban on indoor workplace smoking in June 2006, and it went into effect a month later. Bert's filed suit in September 2006, when Runyon said business was down 50 percent.