February 2, 2007
Friday the House of Delegates passed a bill that will require restaurants that allow smoking to post a sign at the entrances saying so.
"I'm kind of surprised that they would make us say that we allow smoking," said Chip Sawyer, the manager of Escafe on the downtown mall.
If passed, the new rules could affect businesses like Escafe, .which recently chose to go smoke-free until 9:30pm. After that time, patrons can smoke. So they bar and restaurant would still have to post a sign showing they are a business that allows smoking.
It is that "smoking permitted" sign in the window, that the delegate who introduced the bill, thinks will push more businesses to go smoke-free entirely, saying owners would rather ban smoking entirely, than post a sign saying smoking is permitted.
"If that's going to be the new law, that you have to from now on state whether or not you allow smoking at a certain time, I don't know how I feel about that," said Sawyer. "Obviously we'd comply, but it seems a bit off the mark."
But halfway up the downtown mall Zocolo is one downtown business that's already smoke-free.
"We actually had a funny nickname called 'no Smoke-olo,'" laughed Andrew Silver, the Chef and Co-Owner of Zocolo.
But despite the play on words, Silver said the choice to be smoke-free has not hurt the restaurant financially.
And while Zocolo would not be affected by the new rules, or the new signs, Silver said he thinks the whole idea of going smoke-free is a nationwide trend.
"I just think it's the way of the future," he said. "Now every major metropolitan city has non-smoking legislation."
With a vote of 74 to 22, the bill was passed in the House Friday. It's now headed to the Senate, where legislation to ban smoking in restaurants, and virtually all other indoor public places awaits a final vote early next week.