Gainesville operators adjust to no-smoking law

Gainesville operators adjust to no-smoking law – Coast to Coast

Jack Hayes

Gainesville operators adjust to no-smoking law

GAINESVILLE, Ga. – A supposedly controversial non-smoking ordinance passed by the City Council here two weeks ago is creating none of the problems operators were said to be anticipating the day it became law.

Before passage of the ordinance, which went through several draft forms over the past 12 months, operators were not required to identify smoking areas for customers. But most of Gainesville’s full-service restaurants did so anyway, according to Joyce Shubert, deputy city clerk.

“We’ve had a non-smoking section at least two years,” claimed Greg Wilson, who is general manager at Poor Richard’s, a 14-year-old tablecloth destination here. “The first version of the ordinance specified separate ventilation, but we could have even passed that,” Wilson said.

Approximately 100 commercial establishments in this north Georgia lake community must now seat their smoking patrons in separately marked dining areas. But bars and lounges are exempt from the new law, which was incorrectly reported to be the first of its kind in Georgia.

Even coffee shop, cafeteria and quick-service operators who hadn’t marked their dining rooms before are following the ordinance without protest, Shubert reported.

“Nobody’s had to pay any fines as yet,” Shubert said. Yet she claims the Mayor’s Committee on Second Hand Smoke – the group appointed to draft the law – originally wanted to ban smoking here altogether.

She said some local operators who cater to morning “coffee clubs” misread a newspaper report on the ordinance, fearing that smoking was banned outright.

The American Lung Association and at least one Gainesville proprietor got involved with the smoking committee, according to Shubert.

At 9-year-old Rudolph’s On Green Street, staffer Jenne Griffin called the ordinance an “after the fact” regulation.

“We’ve noticed more customers turning into non-smokers the past few years, so we’ve been seating them separately for some time,” Griffin explained.

Earlier this year the National Restaurant Association released results of a Gallup poll indicating 84 percent of consumers want separate non-smoking and smoking sections when they dine out.

The NRA’s 1990 Tableservice Operator Survey also reported that at least 73 percent of full-service operators have separate areas for smoking and non-smoking patrons.

Operator Julius Tacquard at 4 1/2-year-old Cafe Julius claimed he, too, had been isolating non-smokers before Gainesville’s ordinance became law.

“I’ve always handled it without problems,” Tacqard pointed out. “The difference now is I have a sign posted. It’s on a stand, and I can designate one table or half the room.”

Gainesville is a city of 19,000 some 80 miles northeast of Atlanta. Built along the eastern shore of Lake Sidney Lanier, Gainesville is also known as the poultry capital of the world.

Roswell, Ga., located closer to Atlanta, passed Georgia’s first restrictive smoking ordinance in 1988. The law requires operators either to set aside 25 percent of their dining rooms for non-smokers or post a sign saying the restaurant does not conform.

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