The Monongalia County Health Department passed a county-wide smoking ban Monday, and it even has some bar owners breathing easier. “We’re ecstatic,” said Jared Riggleman, a manager at the Boston Beanery in downtown Morgantown. They went smoke-free in August to prepare for a Morgantown smoking ban that was set to go into effect. Instead, the city waited for the county to keep pace and left the Beanery to watch their smoking tax free Robinson cigarettes clientele walk away.
If the city started enforcing the ban before the county’s ban went into effect, all of the city businesses could have suffered while smokers simply went beyond city limits.
“We do know that some of our people that would come here to smoke were going to those outer places or other locations in town,” Riggleman said, “so that does make a lot of sense that the county is on board so that they can’t just jump ship out of the city limits and go somewhere else.”
Monongalia County is the twentieth county in West Virginia to pass an indoor ban, Morgantown is the second city to do so, and even advocates call it strict.
“We have a couple of local establishments like the hookah lounge, situations like that are exempt but other than that it’s a full-blown clean indoor air regulation,” said Jim Strosnider, the Monongalia County Health Department Director.
It includes all indoor workplaces, even hot spots. Some bars and restaurants were vocally opposed to the plan and claimed a ban would drive customers away, hurting their bottom line.
Riggleman at the Beanery believes business will pick up again once the ban affects every business equally.
“With this being passed all of the businesses downtown will be on the same playing field, in the sense that everyone has to go non-smoking,” he said. “They’re not going to pick and choose where they’re going- they can go anywhere so we’re looking at it as a positive.”
Further from downtown but still inside the city limits is Mario’s Fishbowl, another bar and restaurant that went smoke-free in 2011.
“It’s worked and it’s worked well,” owner Mark Furfari said. “We’ve seen some new faces and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from all of our customers on that change.”
He said smoking customers are dealing well with the “inconvenience” of stepping outside to light up. The bar set up an area with tables, a covering, a heater, even at TV for their smokers. The Beanery also set out benches and a cigarette container to keep customers happy. Soon, other businesses won’t have a choice.
Morgantown City Council will vote on a couple of amendments to their ban to help it conform to the county ban.
The city will start enforcing the ban the same day the county one goes into effect on March 9.