MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Local residents who are concerned about a proposed ban on public smoking that’s being considered by the Berkeley County Health Department are focusing on Tuesday’s board meeting when members may take action on the new, more restrictive regulations.
If implemented, the comprehensive “indoor air quality” regulation would ban smoking in bars and private clubs, as well as outdoor areas like parks. The current policy, passed in 2001, bans smoking in restaurants as well as most workplaces.
Concerned bar owners and employees have been picketing outside the Dunn Building for the last week. They are also planning to gather in the downtown square at 2:30 p.m. before walking en masse to the meeting, which will begin at 4 p.m. in the Berkeley County Council chambers.
John Tobin, owner of J.T.’s Bar and Grill in Inwood, said the clubs each spent four hours on a particular day picketing – an effort that’s been successful, he added, pausing momentarily as some drivers in passing vehicles blew their horns in support.
“We’re all building up to our rally on the square and then march down to where the board of health will be voting. We’re really ready to see what comes out of this, because we believe we’re going to lose money out of a smoking ban,” said Tobin, who was accompanied by his bar manager Debbie Stallings.
“We just hope they will compromise, give us something. For example, I have an outside deck that seats 80 people and they are still saying I can’t use that for smoking,” he said.
Tobin, along with Rhonda Hess, manager at the 5-Stop on Welltown Road, and Penny Light, who manages the 19th Hole in Spring Mills, all agreed that sending patrons outside to smoke – especially late at night – might be dangerous and could be a problem if businesses can’t stop customers with a tab from leaving unnoticed.
A change in smoking policy has been an issue again locally for about two months, including a public meeting and comment period that were both held in April.
Supporters maintain this change will better protect employees and public health from the dangers of second-hand smoke…