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Opinions mixed about ban on smoking

March 26, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A day after the Maryland House of Delegates passed a version of a bill that would ban smoking in restaurants and bars, restaurant general manager Bobby Resh wasn't holding his breath when asked how the measure would affect business.

Talk of the ban already had lit his fire.

At Richardson's Restaurant, Resh said "90 to 95 percent" of the bar customers smoke.

"Yeah, they're not really saving anybody from anybody because with that said, 85 percent of my staff smokes, so I don't know who's protecting who from whom," Resh, a nonsmoker who opposes the ban, said Sunday.

Resh and other restaurant owners and managers differed in their opinions about the proposed ban.

"As long as it's the same for everybody, including (private) clubs, I don't have a problem with it," said Chris Jefferies, the owner/manager of the Red Horse Steak House.

The Maryland House and Senate, which both have passed bans, will work on creating a single version of the measure before forwarding it to the office of Gov. Martin O'Malley, who said he supports a ban.

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The Senate's version includes an exemption for private clubs, while the House version would allow bars to seek exemptions if they can prove the ban has hurt business.

Resh said Sunday that he believes citizens are "drowning" in laws, and he wondered aloud what the government would regulate next.

Jefferies said he worries some customers will cross state lines just so they can smoke when they go out.

"A lot of people like to have a nice relaxed dinner, and if they smoke, they like to have a cigarette with their cocktails and after dinner," Jefferies said.

The big-screen televisions were tuned to March Madness basketball games at Buffalo Wild Wings, where a big crowd was on hand Thursday night.

While he said he is not sure how the proposed ban would affect business, manager Robert Mulledy Jr. said he knows customers love the chicken wings.

"Whether they want to smoke or not, we still have the big screens, we still get all the games, you know what I mean?"

As Mulledy spoke, a group of four men entered the restaurant, looking for a table. They asked to be seated in the nonsmoking section.

Dick Roulette, co-owner of The Grille at Park Circle, said the restaurant's current setup - separate sections for smokers and nonsmokers - seems to work well, and like Mulledy, he said he could not predict what a smoking ban would mean for business.

"We'll have to wait to see what happens when the law passes. I don't know what the impact would be," Roulette said.

At Ruby Tuesday, general manager Tim Garrett said customers already have adopted to the change. The Wesel Boulevard restaurant went smoke-free about six years ago, he said.

"We get a lot of guests that actually like it because they don't have to deal with the smoke when they're eating and things like that," Garrett said.

Garrett said customers know what to expect when they enter the doors, and employees have not had problems with people trying to light up inside the restaurant.

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