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Pa.'s air act set to take effect

September 07, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Passed three months ago, Pennsylvania's Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA) goes into effect Thursday, and Del Mills, owner of Dilly's, figures his smoking and nonsmoking customers soon will be switching places.

Down Lincoln Way West at Fox's West End, cook Sue Ewen said the law will not affect that bar's operations.

The CIAA will require any tavern with more than 20 percent of its gross revenue coming from food sales to either ban smoking or create entirely separate areas for its smoking patrons. Private clubs can, by a vote of the membership, continue to allow smoking, create nonsmoking areas or go smokeless, according to the legislation.

Mills said he considered making the bar a designated smoking area, but decided that complying with the law to create it would have cost too much and would have been difficult logistically.

Closing off the bar would have required partitioning it completely from the dining area and adding interior and exterior doors, along with a separate ventilating system for the bar, Mills said.

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"We're talking $20,000 in expenses or more," Mills said. "Then, we found out no one could go from the dining room to the bar except personnel."

If patrons wanted to go from the dining room to the bar, they would have to walk outside and come in the other exterior entrance, Mills said. In doing so, however, they could not carry a drink with them because "you're not allowed to have alcohol off-premises."

Servers and other staff, however, could move between the two areas using interior doors, Mills said.

Dilly's does have an outdoor deck area with landscaping and a water feature where smoking still will be permitted, Mills said. Ironically, that is where many of his nonsmoking customers have preferred to drink and dine, while smokers stayed inside.

With outdoor heaters, Mills said the deck can remain open most of the year.

Cal Morris, owner of Casey's Restaurant & Lounge in Greencastle, Pa., said his business will have a designated smoking area in the bar. The dining area already is smoke-free and has a separate exterior entrance, he said.

"I don't have to do a lot," Morris said. "The bar only will be smoking."

Still to be decided is whether the sports lounge area will be smoking or nonsmoking, Morris said.

"I don't think it's appropriate for the government to decide" whether businesses should ban or allow smoking, said Morris, a nonsmoker. "People have a choice if they want to come in or not come in."

"We are continuing to allow smoking unless we have a drastic change in food sales," Ewen said of Fox's West End. "Food sales don't reach the threshold. We'd love it if they would."

There is a designated nonsmoking area in the tavern, but it does not have to be partitioned under the law, Ewen said.

"We respect people who don't smoke, but we also respect the Constitution," Ewen said. The decision should be left up to business owners and customers, she said.

"Maybe it's time for another (Boston) Tea Party," Ewen said.

Mills said the issue eventually would have taken care of itself without government intervention. Many restaurants and other hospitality businesses already are smoke-free by choice.

Clubs have more latitude under the CIAA.

At Elks Lodge 600 in Chambersburg, signs are posted that as of Sept. 1, smoking is banned in the dining room, which is open to the public. Smoking still will be allowed in the bar in the next room, an employee said.

Twenty-four other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico previously had enacted laws banning smoking in most public places, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health Web site.

Information on the new law, including frequently asked questions and exceptions, is available on the department's Web site at www.dsf.health.state.pa.us.

Staff writer Jennifer Fitch contributed to this story.

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