How effective is Virginia’s smoking ban?
On Dec. 1, 2009, bars and restaurants across Virginia were ordered to put out their cigarettes or renovate their buildings to accommodate non-smokers. A year and a half later, how effective is the ban?
Under the smoking ban, no establishment that sells food can allow smoking, unless it has a separate smoking area, with a door between the smoking and non-smoking sections, and at least one entrance that opens into the non-smoking area.
Initially, a number of bars refused to comply with the law. Many smokers, like Virginia Commonwealth University junior David Turko, a self described “barfly,” objected to the ban.
“When you’re a smoker, you go to a bar and drink,” Turko said. “They go together like milk and cookies.”
He said a few places, like Bandito’s and Joe’s Inn, still allow smoking. But workers at both bars said they are now in full compliance with the law.
“We have all the required facilities,” said Tina Kaftaris, a bartender at Joe’s Inn. “We have separate smoking facilities with its own heating and cooling, circulation and entry.”
Health officials say that while most restaurants are in compliance, the law is difficult to enforce, because the punishment is just a $25 fine, and police are reluctant to spend their time pursuing such a small amount.
“The way the law was originally written … the most a person could be fined was $25. For the police to respond to a call, send an officer out there, write up somebody and go to court, the cost of that would be far over $25,” said John Shellenberg of the Hampton Health Department.
“I am unaware of any police department in the state that has actively enforced the smoking ordinance.”
But Shellenberg says he has found a new way to enforce the ban: persuading the Alcoholic Beverage Control board to make compliance with the smoking ban a condition of a restaurant’s liquor license.
In one case, Shellenberg said, “The agent wrote up a violation against the owner, against his ABC license; we had the hearing; and the eventual outcome was the hearing officer found them guilty of violating it. They were given a choice – either a [$500] fine or a suspension of their ABC license for a week.”
According to Shellenberg, one bar already has been fined and is now working to comply. He hopes the other holdouts will follow.
“One of the remaining places has already voluntarily decided to stop smoking in their establishment and pursue compliance,” Shellenberg said. “We have two that have not, that we have sent 30-day notices to, that unless they do get in compliance, we will work with the ABC again and violate their ABC license.”
Many bartenders say that despite their initial reluctance, the smoking ban hasn’t been a problem, and they’re glad it’s there.
“It’s a pain in the ass to have to go outside to smoke during the winter,” said Chris Merkin, a bartender at Empire Lounge. “But it’s nice being able to work as a bartender and not come home with black boogers.”
Gary Hagy, director of the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Food and Environmental Services, says that overall, the law has been extremely successful.
“Since the bill went into effect, we’re now at 98 percent of restaurants are in compliance with the law,” Hagy said. “I think when we have the record showing 98 percent of our restaurants are in compliance, that’s a pretty good success there.”
What Does the Smoking Ban Say?
Any establishment that serves food must:
Post “No Smoking Signs” clearly and conspicuously
Remove all ashtrays and smoking paraphernalia from the non-smoking areas
Make sure at least one entrance from the outside leads directly into the non-smoking area
If smoking is allowed, restrict it to a separate area with a separate ventilation system
Moreover, no staff members may be required to work in the smoking section
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 07/04/2014
Henrico equestrians interested in deepening the bond between themselves and their horses have the opportunity to attend a two day clinic, held at Steppin’ High Stables on July 7-8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic, “Become Partners with your Horse,” will be taught by multiple world champion equestrienne Terry Preiser and will focus on how riders and horses can work together to achieve more. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 07/03/2014
The Henrico-based Hephaestus Society recently awarded its first annual community heroes award (the Hephaestus Award) to Hicham Elgharouch (pictured, center) for what it termed his "selfless acts of caring" in his duties as a Henrico County Public Schools bus driver. Henrico County Director of Pupil Transportation Josh Davis, joined Hephaestus Society President Travis Gardner, in presenting the award and an accompanying $1,500 check to Elgharouch last month.
Elgharouch was selected for his clear and demonstrated patience and for his infectious positive attitude, according to the society. > Read more.
Grab the kids and check out these fun family-friendly events taking place this weekend! Speed over to the Henrico Theatre for the film “Turbo” or watch “Dumbo” under the stars at Clarke-Palmore House Museum. Little ones can meet Thomas the Tank Engine at CMOR-Central or play at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Don’t party too hard on the Fourth because a whole weekend of fun events await! Enjoy a classy date night without the kids at James River Cellars Winery’s second annual Smoke and Vine Festival. Another date night option is at the Richmond Funny Bone, where comedian April Macie will perform all weekend. The kids have their own options this weekend as well. Choose from storytime at Tuckahoe and Twin Hickory libraries or family-oriented karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House – I hear they have hits from Disney’s “Frozen.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
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CalendarThe film “Turbo” will play at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. July 11 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. July 12 at Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Rd.… Full text