Michael Allen predicted the city of Aiken's smoking ban would hurt his downtown business and others like it.
A year later, he says he was right.
"I'm losing about $10,000 a month," said the owner of City Billiards restaurant and pool hall. "It's quite significant."
Aiken approved the indoor smoking ban in July 2008 but didn't implement it until January. North Augusta's version began in August 2008. Both followed Aiken County, which initiated its ordinance in June 2007.
Though Mr. Allen and some other business owners say they're unhappy with the ban, city and county officials say they feel it has benefited people's health, and they haven't had any major enforcement problems.
"In our opinion, it's been very effective with the city," said Aiken City Manager Roger LeDuc.
County Administrator Clay Killian said there have been a couple of warnings issued but no citations, and he doesn't think any restaurants have been hurt by the ban.
"Most studies have shown that their business goes up if they stop allowing smoking," he said.
Mr. Allen said he thinks more customers have been going outside Aiken city limits to county locales, where he said the ban doesn't appear to be enforced as strictly.
"We've seen a drop in revenue from 3 to 5 p.m. on to closing where someone wants to come to sit down and have a beer and cigarette, or shoot some pool and smoke," Mr. Allen said. "It's drastically dropped off the night business."
City Billiards also doesn't have a patio like The West Side Bowery, an Aiken restaurant. Bans in the county and North Augusta don't allow smoking within 10 feet of a nonsmoking facility, but the city of Aiken allows smoking in public areas that are at least 50 percent exposed to the outdoors.
Sam Erb, the owner of The West Side Bowery, said that before the ban his restaurant allowed smoking only at its bar.
"I don't think it's really affected us," he said of the ban, but he added, "I'm just getting tired of the government trying to tell me how to run my business."
North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones said before the smoking ban that businesses across the state with such restrictions had reported an increase in customers.
David Drakeley, the owner of The Highlander in North Augusta, said that hasn't been the case for his business because his city's ban includes bars.
"We've lost a few (customers)," he said. "They go across the river where they can enjoy a smoke with beer."
Georgia has a statewide indoor smoking ban, but it provides an exception for bars that serve little or no food.
Mr. Jones said his city hasn't issued any citations. He believes the ban hasn't caused people too much heartburn.
"I think it's just slid right through with very little confusion or very little people being upset," he said.
Reach Crystal Garcia at (706) 823-3409 or Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110.
NO SMOKING ALLOWED
Off limits: restaurants; banks; educational, convention, entertainment, health care and adult or child day-care centers; elevators; stores; within 10 feet of any entrance or exit to an enclosed area where smoking is banned
Allowed: In enclosed rooms of restaurants and bars with separate ventilation systems; in bars and dining establishments that do not serve or employ anyone 18 or younger Penalty: $200 fine or 30 days in jail
Off limits (indoors): Galleries, libraries and museums; professional offices, banks, laundromats, hotels, and motels; bars; bingo facilities; conference centers and exhibition halls; educational facilities; elevators; health care facilities; hotel and motel lobbies; licensed child care and adult day-care facilities; lobbies, hallways, and other common areas in apartment buildings, condominiums, trailer parks, retirement facilities, nursing homes and other multiple-unit residential facilities; polling places; private clubs when they are being used for a function to which the general public is invited; public transportation; restaurants; retail stores, service lines, malls and public meeting places
Outdoors: Amphitheaters; ballparks and stadiums in use for competitions and public performances; parades; dining areas in public, such as sidewalks
Allowed: 10 feet from any entry to an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited; private residences; designated hotel and motel rooms; retail tobacco stores; some outdoor areas at places of employment
Penalty: Fines from $10 to $25. Repeat violations could result in suspension or revocation of occupancy permit or business license.
CITY OF AIKEN
Off limits: Galleries, libraries, and museums; professional offices, banks, laundromats, hotels and motels; bars; bingo facilities; conference centers and exhibition halls; educational facilities; elevators; health care facilities; hotel and motel lobbies; licensed child care and adult day-care facilities; lobbies, hallways, and other common areas in apartment buildings, condominiums, trailer parks, retirement facilities, nursing homes and other multiple-unit residential facilities; polling places; private clubs when used for a function to which the public is invited; public transportation; restaurants; retail stores, service lines, malls and public meeting places; enclosed areas within places of employment
Allowed: Outside areas not posted as nonsmoking areas; private residences, unless used as a day care or health care facility; hotel and motel rooms designated as smoking rooms; retail tobacco stores; requested private and semiprivate smoking rooms in long-term-care facilities; private clubs except for events that admit the general public; outside designated areas; theatrical stage productions when smoking is essential to the performance; personal vehicles, including when used for employment purposes
Penalty: Fines from $10 to $25. Repeated infractions could lead to suspension or revocation of permit or business license.
SOUTH CAROLINA LAWS
In 2008, South Carolina passed or strengthened 12 city or county smoking ordinances, which was more than any other state. The state received the Smokefree Challenge Award on June 9 at the 2009 National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Phoenix, Ariz. There are now 27 smoke-free ordinances in the state.
Source: Dan Carrigan with Smoke Free Action Network