New Savannah smoking ban gets lukewarm response

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- At a River Street bar on Saturday afternoon, a bartender said two of her customers walked out.

Inside a watering hole on Congress Street, people were grateful.

Just a few doors down, another pub owner was optimistic.

But everyone agreed the new no smoking ordinance would settle in without much of a fight from customers.

Kevin Barry's bartender Michelle Peth said a small gathering of people arrived at the River Street bar and were given a free drink in exchange for an ashtray. About half the people there were happy with the new ordinance. But others were not.

"We had a couple just walk out," Peth said, adding it was her biggest fear. "I'm worried they'll just walk outside to smoke and then just leave."

Peth also said she was worried if the streets would stay clean. On Saturday afternoon, the cobblestones, concrete and brick thoroughfares and sidewalks around the Historic District were still pock-marked by cigarette butts left from the throngs of New Year's Eve revelers from the night before.

"It makes you wonder if it will always look like that now," she said.

 

Customers appear annoyed, but tolerant

Staff at the Rail Pub on Congress Street said customers appeared annoyed but tolerant of the new rule. Customer Mike Kelley said he was grateful the law would clear the air there because it would help him stop smoking for good.

"For us it will be missed," he said. "But the thing is I drink at home but I don't smoke, and I drink at other bars and I don't smoke."

"Since I only smoked here, maybe now I'll quit."

Also on Congress Street, Molly MacPherson's Scottish Pub and Grill Owner Daniel Cloutier puffed on a smoke outside his business as he explained his optimism for the new ordinance. Perhaps now he can attract new customers who wanted to enjoy his impressive selection of whisky but refused to be around the smoke.

But some in Cloutier's pool of smoke-loving regulars were not as positive.

"People have complained but I told them, 'listen; we live in the South and the weather is perfect,'" he said. "As long as everyone sticks with the law we're all equal."

Asthma sufferer Courtney Robinson said Saturday lifted the pressure of weighing a couple drinks at a bar against compromising her health.

"I have a lot of friends that smoke and I was sort of rubbing it in that on Jan. 1 they can't smoke," she said. "Finally, I can be comfortable."

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