Local bar and restaurant owners who now allow smoking will likely soon have to tell patrons to snuff 'em out.
At a Dec. 15 meeting, the York County Council approved a first reading of a new ordinance that would "prohibit smoking in places of employment in the unincorporated areas of York County...in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public." This would include all restaurants and bars in the area not located in the Town of Fort Mill or City of Tega Cay, which would mean patrons of several popular establishments, such as McHale's, Steve and Kelly's and Hoopers will have to butt out. Other popular places, including Beef O'Brady's and Towne Tavern, are already smoke-free.
"I don't agree with it," said Chad Halt, manager of Hoopers off Gold Hill Road. at Hwy. 160 West. "Sunday alcohol sales just gave us something back. Now the [county], [in] one of the biggest tobacco producing states, is taking something away."
Halt is one of many business owners in the county opposed to the ban, saying it will be bad for the community and the local economy - possibly driving customers back across the border to North Carolina, where smoking will still be allowed.
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"What are you supposed to do? Smoke inside your house under a blanket with the lights out? That's what it feels like," Halt said.
Many of the guests at Hoopers said a reason they were at the bar was because smoking was allowed.
"I don't smoke, but I think people should be able to do what they want to do when it comes to things like that," said Tega Cay resident Eddie Mullins, while eating at Hoopers.
Residents of larger cities such as New York and Chicago have adjusted to citywide smoking bans in the last few years, a trend that is spreading to smaller areas.
"Chicago is not the tobacco capital of the country," said Fort Mill resident Crystal Warnock. "We're in the tobacco capital. Why would they try and pass no smoking laws here?"
The referendum, however, does have support behind it. Many residents believe a smoking ban would improve overall health in the area.
"It would just tickle me to death," said Tega Cay resident John Dodson about the no smoking ordinance. "I'm a reformed smoker and I can't stand the smell of it. I don't want to die from second hand smoke either."
Tega Cay resident Ron Latta said he would be happy to play pool with his friends without dealing with cigarette smokers.
"I'd like to shoot pool when the room is not full of smoke," he said at Steve and Kelly's. "I'm not in favor of the government controlling everything we do, but I think this is a health issue."
Many York County residents feel that there are already enough non-smoking restaurants in the area that a county- wide smoking ban seems unnecessary.
"We've been smoke free since April 2006," said Dan Holmes, owner of Towne Tavern on Hwy. 160 West.
Holmes said he actually made the transition to a non-smoking restaurant because the majority of his staff didn't smoke.
"I didn't think they would want to work in an environment like that," Holmes said.
"We're a neighborhood restaurant. I wanted to expand to the whole community and I thought going smoke free would be the best way to go."
Holmes said business did decline at first as he had an immediate objection from smokers.
"A lot of bar owners are thinking doom and gloom about all this. But my business took one step back and two steps forward. I'm glad I did it," he said.
Holmes said the Towne Tavern does more business now than before, and some of the most appreciative guests are ex-smokers.
Although, for the record, Holmes is against the referendum, he said.
"I think there are enough non-smoking venues that people should have a choice," he said. "I made this decision for me - I didn't make it for everybody."