Welcome to the Archive of The Carrboro Citizen Logo Image

New smoking rules filter through towns

by Kirk Ross
Staff Writer

New state rules that prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars and most indoor establishments won’t take effect until January, but the impact of the historic change in the state’s attitude toward tobacco is already being felt.

Late last week, thousands of members of the Orange County Social Club got a little surprise in the club’s monthly email newsletter.

Owner Tricia Mesigian announced that the last day for smoking will be July 3. The club will also shut down for a few days for a thorough cleaning and upfit, including new paint and ceiling tiles.

In an interview Wednesday, Mesigian said the decision to go early was the result of a combination of factors.

“I wanted to do it in warm weather,” she said. That way OCSC patrons who want to smoke can get used to heading outdoors while it’s a little more inviting. The start also is timed so that the change won’t happen in the middle of basketball season.

Mesigian also said that with Merge Records planning an event at the club in late July as part of the label’s 20th anniversary, she “wanted to spruce the place up.”

The move also will make the place more inviting for a wider range of customers, something the management at Tyler’s Taproom and The Speakeasy discovered after they opted to go nonsmoking in early May.

Ciara Campbell, general manager of the Carrboro Taproom and The Speakeasy, said converting The Speakeasy to nonsmoking has been a boon to business.

“It’s been incredible,” she said. “We’ve had more calls for private parties, and we’re finding that people are staying longer.”

More customers also are crossing over to The Speakeasy after dinner, she said, adding that regulars who smoke have quickly adapted to heading outside.

With the Social Club’s conversion, only a handful of clubs and bars that permit smoking inside are left.

Wes Lowder, one of the owners of The Reservoir, said his club plans to convert to nonsmoking in January when the new rules take effect. “I imagine we’ll allow them to smoke as long as we can” he said.

Caffe Driade owner Scott Conary said that while the café allows smoking outside and has never allowed smoking indoors, there is a “gray area” in the winter when the patio is partially enclosed and heated.

Though partially enclosed, he said, the patio would still fit the definition of an outdoor space and patrons likely will still be allowed to smoke there.

One business that is particularly worried about the new rules is Hookah Bliss. Owner Adam Bliss says he was disappointed that an exemption that would have protected his West End establishment and 21 other hookah bars in the state did not make it into the final bill.

He said legislators protected cigar bars, country clubs and nonprofit places like VFW and Elks clubs, but not places like his.

Such places, he said, are frequented by the same rich, white men who make up the bulk of the General Assembly.

“Basically, they protected their own personal playgrounds while telling the rest of us that we are not responsible enough to partake of a legal substance,” Bliss said.

He is hoping that an exemption for hookah bars makes its way into law soon. Otherwise, establishments like his will have to close.

Comments are closed.