Originally created 09/22/04

Businesses want ban in Richmond County



Many Columbia County bars and restaurants are opposed to the indoor smoking ban adopted Tuesday by county commissioners, but they'll be downright upset if Richmond County doesn't follow suit.

That's because they think the hard-core smokers will simply take their business across the county line.

"It's going to kill me worse than anybody," said Ray Wren, the owner of The Rack & Grill pool hall off River Watch Parkway, just inside the county line. "Smokers can sit down for a meal without smoking, but I've got people coming in and staying for three or four hours."

A study earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that an indoor smoking ban in El Paso, Texas, had no impact on restaurant and bar revenues.

However, metro areas made up of multiple municipalities or counties report that certain types of businesses, mainly neighborhood bars, are negatively affected when smoking bans don't encompass the entire market.

For example, in Tempe, Ariz., a city within the Phoenix metro area, several businesses closed and others reported major revenue declines in the months after its 2002 ban, according to the Tempe Chamber of Commerce.

Nick Petkas owns Niko's Athens Restaurant and Taverna, a non-smoking restaurant, and Little Nick's, an adjoining bar that has a separate ventilation system, on Bobby Jones Expressway.

He said he thinks his restaurant will not be negatively affected if Richmond County does not follow through on a smoking ban but that it would have a "major impact" on his bar.

Mr. Petkas said he is upset with the way Columbia County's smoking ban was pitched to business owners.

"The way it was explained to us at the hearings, Richmond County was going to do the same thing," he said.

A poll earlier this year by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce showed that 71 percent of its members supported an indoor smoking ban.

Chamber President Gordon Renshaw said he was concerned Richmond County's inaction could harm Columbia County establishments.

But on the flip side, he said the county's businesses could see more customers from Richmond County who want a totally smoke-free bar and grill environment.

"I think there is going to be a wait-and-see attitude with folks," he said.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com.