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Published: Monday, 11/26/2001

Bowling Green smoking ban quietly takes effect

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - When he arrived at the Easy Street Caf yesterday, manager Terry Shelley wasted no time removing ashtrays from the restaurant's tables.

Then he posted no smoking signs at the hostess station and inside a front window for all potential customers to see.

With those two quick moves, this popular downtown eatery was transformed overnight into a smoke-free restaurant - just in time to comply with a smoking ban that went into effect yesterdayin this Wood County city.

Mr. Shelley said he didn't expect the ban to cause major problems at his restaurant, namely because it has been discussed for more than a year.

“I think as far as the no-smoking policy, we'll have the occasional person who might get upset,” Mr. Shelley said, as he tended bar. “How it's going to affect the business is we won't have as many bar customers.”

Bowling Green residents voted 3,046 to 1,897 on Nov. 6 in favor of the Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in most indoor public areas including all retail stores, dining areas, and waiting areas.

Two exceptions to the ban are restaurants with completely enclosed bar areas designated as smoking rooms and bars that derive less than 35 per cent of their annual gross income from the sale of food.

The ban's impact was obvious yesterday in many restaurants across town, where hostesses had to practice a new greeting that didn't include an offer for a smoking section.

That didn't shock smokers, who said they're becoming used to smoking bans.

“I'll just smoke elsewhere. What else are you going to do?” said George Foley, a New Orleans resident who's currently working in Bowling Green. “After a while, you just get used to this.”

But in some businesses, signs of a citywide smoke ban were absent.

At Al-Mar Lanes on North Main Street, patrons at the bowling alley's bar each had access to glass ashtrays.

One contained a half-smoked cigarette, although the bar itself was not smoke-filled.

Owner Bill Wammes said he hasn't made any changes yet as he hashes out details with city officials and the Wood County health department.

Mr. Wammes said they still haven't determined which type of business he runs - a bar or a restaurant. If they rule it's a bar, he won't have to comply with the ban.

“I'm not exactly sure what our situation is. We have no idea,” Mr. Wammes said. “But we're looking into it.”

Andrew Schuman, who led the campaign to place the issue on the ballot, said he had not been out yesterday to check on compliance in town.

Mr. Schuman said he was optimistic that most places would comply on their own.

In fact, he said he knew of two restaurants that started enforcing the ban weeks ago.

Mr. Schuman said he believes Bowling Green's smoking ban will set a precedent for other towns. He plans to help other communities draw up similar legislation.

“I think what we'll see is there will be lots and lots of communities that do this,” he said last night.

“It's always easier to have someone else do it first,” Mr. Schuman said.

Smoking bans are not entirely new, although Bowling Green was one of the first in the state to make it stick.

In Lucas County, a similar ban that was passed by the Toledo-Lucas County health department remains a court issue.

The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the indoor smoking ban is constitutional.



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