Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Midway restaurants, other businesses object to outdoor limits proposed in county smoking ban

By Melissa Hill
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

VERSAILLES, Ky. -- Many residents and business owners attended last night's forum in Versailles on a proposed smoking ban in Woodford County, including Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth and Bill Van Den Dool, the owner of The Black Tulip restaurant.

One of their main concerns is the provision that would prohibit smoking within 25 feet of outside entrances or open windows. “Twenty-five feet in Midway is a lot," Bozarth said. "If you go out 25 feet, you’re going to be in the middle of the road. This needs to be addressed. It will not work in Midway.”

Van Den Dool’s main issue is his restaurant's patio. He says when the weather is warm, he gets most of his business from people eating, relaxing, and smoking on the patio. “I can understand no smoking indoors, but people on the patio should not have to be asked not to smoke,” he said. Other restaurants in Midway, such as the Holly Hill Inn and Quirk CafĂ© and Coffee, have patios.

Bozarth and Van Den Dool were not the only Midway business owners and residents with concerns about the proposal. At a merchants meeting in Midway this morning, many business owners expressed their opinions. Quirk owner Grayson Vandegrift said, “We put a lot of time and money into our businesses and to tell us what we can and can’t do is wrong.” Midway businesses already ban smoking on their own, but not to the extent the county Board of Health has proposed.

Overall, business owners said the ban would be a good thing, but feel the health board, residents and business owners should work out a compromise. Bozarth told them he plans to write a letter expressing Midway’s concerns to County Judge-Executive John Coyle, the health board chairman. Some Midway business owners are petitioning Coyle, saying they want a compromise that would benefit all residents.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit smoking in all enclosed public places and places of employment, including restaurants, bars, sports arenas, and shopping malls, as well as many other public places.

Health Department Director Garland VanZant said in an interview that the health board will meet tomorrow evening to discuss what transpired at the forum. He said the board may send the proposal back to the committee that developed it and ask the committee to meet with restaurant owners and concerned residents to work something out, or could drop it. VanZant said passage of the ordinance would require a first and second reading and a formal public hearing, which probably would not be until May, if then.

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