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
With a nod to Arbor Day, Citizen seeks photos, descriptions of significant Henrico trees
Citizen Staff Reports 04/28/2015
Do you have a favorite tree in Henrico?
Do you know of a tree with an interesting story?
Do you live near an especially large, old, or otherwise unusual tree – or do you pass by one that has always intrigued you?
Arbor Day 2015 (April 24) was last week, and though the Citizen has published stories about a few special trees over the years (see sidebar) we know that our readers can lead us to more. > Read more.
Henrico's most famous tree, known as the Surrender Tree, still stood for more than a century near the intersection of Osborne Turnpike and New Market Road -- until June 2012.
It was in the shade of that tree on April 3, 1865, that Richmond mayor Joseph Mayo met Major Atherton Stevens and troops from the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry and handed over a note surrendering the city to Federal troops. Evacuation had already begun. > Read more.
The Greater Richmond ARC's annual Ladybug Wine Tasting and Silent Auction on April 11 netted $75,165 to benefit its Infant and Child Development Services (ICDS) program.
About 350 guests sampled fine West Coast wines and craft beer from Midnight Brewery at Richmond Raceway Complex's Torque Club, along with food from local eateries. Carytown Cupcakes provided dessert. > Read more.
In the mood for some spring shopping? Eastern Henrico FISH will hold their semi-annual yard sale this weekend – funds raised assist at-risk families in Eastern Henrico County. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will hold a spring plant sale which is among the largest in the region with more than 40 vendors selling plants ranging from well-known favorites to rare exotics. Put on your detective hat and find out “whodunnit” at the movie “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and “The Case of the Dead Flamingo Dancer,” presented by the Henrico Theatre Company May 1-17. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
It’s that time of year – charity races are popping up everywhere! On Saturday, St. Joseph’s Villa will be the site of the sixth annual CASA Superhero Run and the fifth annual Richmond Free to Breathe Run/Walk will be held in Innsbrook. Also in Innsbrook, the 2015 Richmond Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis will take place on Sunday. If you’re more into relaxation than exercise, check out Wine for Cure’s Dogwood Wine Festival or the Troubadours Community Theatre Group’s production of “West Side Story” at the Henrico Theatre. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
There are several fun events this weekend taking place outside including the third annual Virginia Firefighter Games at Short Pump Town Center; Twin Hickory Park’s “April Showers: A Celebration of Spring” event; the Young Life Richmond West 5k in Innsbrook; and the Gold Festival on Broad which benefits Prevent Child Abuse Virginia. Fingers crossed for no rain! For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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