Local bars call state law cracking down on smoking "Pain in the - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Local bars call state law cracking down on smoking "Pain in the butt"


A state law cracking down on smoking in restaurants and bars has been on the books for three years, but is it really working?

We found out even the people who are supposed to enforce it, are having problems.

The folks at Major Willy Mayo's on Dock Street have a major problem with Virginia's Indoor Clean Air Act.

"That specific act really limited the smokers to where they could go and it made them second class citizens," said bar manager Chris Postlewaite. "We don't look at them at second class citizens here."

The law has been on the books for three years now. It assumes businesses are smoke free unless they provide specific spaces for non-smokers.

"In the beginning it was a major headache," said Postlewaite. "A major pain in the butt."

The Clean Air Act forced Postlewaite to get creative. In many cases non-smoking customers have to bypass the bar and go through double doors that clearly indicate no smoking.

The act says businesses have to provided a walled off space with a separate H-VAC system for non-smokers. It also calls for a separate public entrance for non-smokers.

"That's tough," we noted in an interview with Gary Hagy who is with the Virginia Department of Health.

"For a lot of restaurants," acknowledged Hagy. "Yes. It depends on the size of your facility. It's real tough."

The health department is responsible for enforcing the law. He suggests his hands are tied when comes to enforcement.

"So all we can do is basically write them up on the inspection form that basically you're not in compliance with the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act."

The fine tops out at $25. So, when faced with a small fee or paying a big price to completely remodel, many businesses are opting for a game of smoke and mirrors.

"After say 9 o'clock they go ahead and go smoking," said Postlewaite. "(Mainly) places in the Fan because who is going to police them at 9 o'clock if it's the health department that's doing that?"

Major Willy Mayo's has managed to turn the tables. It is 85 percent smoking and 15 percent non-smoking in their establishment.

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