Berkeley County Clean Air Regulation Impacting Bar Owners

BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. - The Clean Air Regulation of 2014 bans smoking cigarettes, and e-cigarettes, in all work and public places. The policy was effective on July 1, 2014. 

"Bars in particular were exempt. Also, it didn't touch on e-cigarettes at all," said Jennifer Hutson, sanitarian supervisor with the Berkeley County Health Department. "Additionally, it didn't really focus on outdoor areas at all. This one focuses a little more on all three of those."

However, bar owners said they've seen a decline in business. They understand where the county is coming from in promoting a healthier environment, but don't understand why the policy should effect them.

"Folks can expect not to smoke at the Laundromat, or smoke at Wal-Mart, or smoke at the seafood store or the produce store," said George Willenburg, owner of The Olde Hangar. "But you don't go to a bar and expect to just sit on a stool and that's it"

"Normally when you go to the bars, people know what they're getting into," said Aaron Winters, owner and manager at Bulldog's Pub. "People are smoking, people are drinking, having a good time, that's the atmosphere itself.

The owners said they're fortunate to have an outdoor area for people to go outside and smoke, but said that may change once the weather gets a little colder.

"It is summertime so people do like to stand outside when it is nice, sunny, a little breeze, there's some shade out back," Winters said. "But come winter time, they may not want to do that."

"You can't expect them to sit outside when it's ten degrees outside to have a cigarette," Willenburg added.

The owners said they've also seen a decline in people playing their slot machines since they can't smoke inside.

"You can go 15 minutes down the road to Jefferson County and they can smoke down there," Winters said. "We've lost business whether it be the casino or a bar right across the county lines."

The owners said things would be different if the smoking policy was effective in the entire state, not just in Berkeley County.

"If it were state regulated, like Maryland, it's an easier pill to swallow," Winters said. "So why single out us?"

However with just one month in, health officials said they expect things will get better.

"I expect it will eventually be a way of life and people will get use to it," Hutson said.

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