Smoking ban receives mixed reviews

Smoking ban receives mixed reviews

While the air in Fort Worth restaurants is clearing up, many workers say they are not breathing any easier.

Because of the recently enacted smoking ban, smokers can’t light up in public buildings. Since Jan. 1, smoking has been banned inside and within 20 feet of all restaurants and pool halls as well as some bars.

Bars that generate more than 70 percent of their sales from alcoholic beverages are not included in the ban. Establishments considered private clubs are also not included in the ban.

Although the ban has been in effect for several weeks, restaurant workers said it’s business as usual and hope it will stay that way. Apart from several unhappy customers, they said they have not lost too many of their regulars, though some are reluctant to abide by the new rule.

“When a man this morning found out we didn’t have smoking, he turned around and walked out,” said Tonya Weimer, a waitress at the International House of Pancakes.

One customer at Ol’ South Pancake House said he would rather have a Diet Coke instead of coffee when he found out he couldn’t smoke.

“Coffee and smoking just go together,” said Ol’ South customer Britt Groze.

Several customers at Ol’ South said they did not appreciate the 20-foot rule and said it makes them feel like “second class citizens.”

“I’m a smoker and if I want to smoke, I’ll just go outside. I don’t need anybody telling me how far away to go,” Groze said.

Jamie Fluary, assistant manager of the IHOP on University Drive, said though the ban has attracted new customers, she still wishes it was a smoking restaurant. Fluary said she thinks there will be some disappointed TCU students when school starts back up.

Although some customers said they have negative feelings, some appreciate it.

“As a non-smoker, I like the ban,” said IHOP customer David Floyd.

Rhonda, a waitress at Ol’ South, said it is easy to forget about the smoking ban. Ol’ South employees seem to have also forgotten the 20-foot rule and stand right outside the back door to smoke. Although the ashtrays have been removed from the tables, there are still ashtrays standing inside the entrance way. Workers say they will be removed in the near future.

Restaurant workers at IHOP and Ol’ South said inspectors haven’t come in to check on them.

Violators face fines up to $500 for individuals and $2,000 for businesses, according to the Department of Health Web site. All smoking complaints are investigated within 48 hours, said Amy Casas, Public Information Coordinator for the Fort Worth Public Health Department.

Casas said the department has received 12 complaints regarding violations of the ban and have investigated them. Officials have heard no other complaints.