A Macon Nightclub Ends A Smoking Ban, 17 Days After They Began It
September 17, 2014
Macon, Ga. —
A popular Macon nightclub has reversed course after 17 days being smoke-free indoors. On September First, the Hummingbird Stage and Taproom banned smoking inside the establishment. On Tuesday, management said “we goofed.”
“Our customers have expressed a desire to go back to the way things were. And, in fact, the non-smokers were not becoming customers as fast as the smokers were becoming non-customers. It is strictly a business decision at this point,” Manager Tim Obelgoner said Tuesday
Georgia policy does not ban smoking in bars and restaurants, unlike 28 other states. Instead they leave the choice up to municipalities, and some — such as Athens and Savannah — have adopted the ban. Macon has not, rejecting a ban as late as 2010. Obelgoner says government should not restrict smoking in private businesses.
Organizations that are pushing for government regulation of smoking in bars and restaurants, such as the Cancer Action Network, say that without a uniform standard in Georgia, patrons and workers will always deal with two set of standards governing exposure to secondhand smoke.
Macon-Bibb Commissioner Larry Schlesinger who attended the Hummingbird’s announcement banning smoking back in August, said that he has thought about bringing up the smoking ban again with the newly-created Macon-Bibb County Commission. But he prefers if individual businesses take up the ban on their own.
In a message on its Facebook page, Hummingbird management says trends across the country suggested the smoking ban was a good idea. “Reality in our fair city screams otherwise.” they wrote.
Obelgoner said it will still follow through on donating a portion of proceeds to lung cancer research in November, something the club announced when they announced the ban.
No Council Vote on Smoking Law
Oct 18th, 2011
by Eleanor Lissitzyn
Despite earlier intentions, Macon City Council sponsors of a smoking law declined to bring it back up before full council Tuesday night.
Ordinance co-sponsors Nancy White and Larry Schlesinger previously said they planned to ask full council to vote to disagree with the Public Safety Committee, which voted not to move the proposed law to a full council vote last week.
With at least two council members absent from Tuesday night’s meeting, White says they decided not to bring the law back up for fear it wouldn’t get the necessary eight votes.
Now White says she’s not sure if they’ll continue the effort to get the law passed.
People from both sides of the issue have shown up to represent their arguments every time the issue has been discussed before council, and Tuesday was no exception.
The law would restrict smoking in bars and restaurants as well as many other public outdoor places.
About twenty people from both sides attended the meeting.
Al Tillman of Community-n-Unity took the podium to say he does not support the law.
Tillman previously participated in a commercial supporting the law, but says he’s changed his mind.
He says he’s afraid that outlawing smoking in downtown Macon’s bars and restaurants will drive business into other communities, like Warner Robins and Gray.
Premium Tobacco Retailers Say Proposed Macon Smoking Ban Puts Jobs, Businesses at Risk
Macon, Georgia? September 27, 2011
Loss of jobs and personal rights under an ever growing Big Brother nanny state are what some members of Macon’s City Council are promoting with their continuing push to make Macon smoke-free, according to the Georgia Premium Retail Tobacconists Association and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.
Both of the Georgia-based associations of premium tobacco retailers have warned the Macon City Council that the ordinance it is considering to restrict smoking in bars and restaurants would be putting local jobs and small businesses at risk for no valid reason.
“We are against all legislative smoking bans and in favor of business owners’ rights to determine the smoking policy in their establishments. This is no time to be putting jobs and small businesses at risk,” said Bill Spann, chief executive officer of the Columbus, Georgia-based IPCPR.
Jim Luftman, president of the Atlanta-based GPRTA, agrees.
“Business owners have the right to declare whether or not smoking would be allowed on the premises just as customers have the right to patronize them or not. Legislated smoking bans take away those rights from both groups,” Luftman said.
Spann supported his position with data showing loss of business due to legislated smoking bans.
“No less authority than the Federal Reserve Bank, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is on record showing that smoking bans cost jobs and hurt businesses while putting them at a disadvantage to other competing businesses in surrounding areas,” said Spann.
“When government takes away from restaurant and other business owners their right to decide how to run their businesses, it is exceeding its authority and acting unconstitutionally.? It is attacking the rights of smokers and non-smokers, alike,” he added.? “And it’s all so unnecessary.
“Safe levels of secondhand smoke have been set by OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration -? and they are 25,000 times safer than the air quality levels normally found in bars and restaurants that allow smoking,” he said.
According to Spann, many of the IPCPR’s retail members sell their premium tobacco products to restaurants and bars who, in turn, sell them to their customers.
“To legislatively ban smoking in Macon restaurants and bars will severely reduce these sales which will translate into reduced excise, sales, and income tax revenues for Macon and the state of Georgia,” he said.
Spann and Luftman urged all Macon residents to contact their council representatives and ask them to vote against the unnecessary smoking ban.
Smoking ban snuffed out as Macon council fails to overturn veto
May 4th, 2011
By JIM GAINES – firstname.lastname@example.org
Two weeks of public back-and-forth and a wave of public comments about tighter smoking regulations in Macon weren’t enough to shift a single vote among City Council members.
Tuesday’s 9-6 decision was one vote shy of the 10 needed to override Mayor Robert Reichert’s veto of a smoking ordinance, falling in the same 9-6 margin as its initial passage April 19.
The vote means the smoking ban that would have prevented anyone from lighting up in various places, including Macon’s bars, won’t take effect later this year after all.
Council members signaled Monday that they would try to override Reichert’s veto, but no new arguments emerged Tuesday night despite half a dozen speeches from the public and a half-hour of debate among council members themselves.
Facing a packed council chamber, including a contingent holding “Breathe Easy Macon” signs in support of the smoking ordinance, Council President Miriam Paris limited public speakers to three who supported the measure and three who were against it.
The effort to override the veto headed the council’s agenda, and in a pre-council meeting Councilman Mike Cranford noted that according to the usual order, that vote would come before members of the public were allowed to address council — and most of the intended speakers came to talk about just that subject.
Interim City Attorney Martha Welsh said the council could rearrange that, but Councilman Henry Ficklin disagreed. Though the arrangement was unfortunate, the council should stick to its usual rules no matter what, he said.
When Cranford moved in the actual council meeting to let the public speak before the smoking vote, only Ficklin opposed doing so.
Proponents of the new rules, which essentially would have banned smoking inside all bars and restaurants, plus at some outdoor locations such as playgrounds and amphitheaters, argued that it was a question of public health.
Dave Harvey, district health director for the Macon-Bibb County Health Department and a retired pediatrician, likened the restrictions to gun control laws.
“We’re not saying you shouldn’t have (a gun). We’re saying be careful where you shoot,” he said.
Opponents of the ordinance, such as Element nightclub owner Philip Sinclair, dismissed health arguments as a matter of individual choice and said the law would hurt his business, pushing bar customers to establishments outside city limits.
“I believe y’all are being completely fiscally irresponsible if y’all override the mayor’s veto,” Sinclair said.
When it came time for council members to speak, Ficklin said he backs anti-smoking measures but thinks the public didn’t have time to comment on this ordinance.
“I have no issue with the smoking ban, but what I do have an issue with is the process,” he said.
Cranford said he’s owned many businesses including bars, restaurants and a hotel, and that most council members can’t say they’ve dealt with “government bull” imposed on businesspeople.
“Small business is a minority, and if you’ve ever been part of a minority that couldn’t or wouldn’t be heard, you know what I’m talking about,” he said.
Bar and restaurant owners have threatened to sue the city if the ordinance passes, he said. The rules would be “reasonable” if done in conjunction with Bibb County, thus preventing customers from switching their business to nearby smoking establishments, Cranford said.
Councilwoman Beverly Blake asked colleagues to go ahead and override the veto, saying its backers were willing to hold two public meetings in the next 60 days to get public input for “fine-tuning” the ordinance before it went into effect Sept. 1.
Councilman Charles Jones scoffed at that, saying it was putting the cart before the horse to pass something and seek to fix it later; but Councilwoman Elaine Lucas accused opponents of foot-dragging by calling for joint action with Bibb County.
“I can smell a stall … and you can, too,” she said.
After more in the same vein, Ficklin called for a vote. He, Cranford, Jones, Ed DeFore, James Timley and Virgil Watkins voted to uphold the mayor’s veto.
Council members Blake, Lauren Benedict, Nancy White, Tom Ellington, Paris, Larry Schlesinger, Lonnie Miley, Lucas and Rick Hutto voted to override the veto. Although that group of council members was in the majority, that left ordinance supporters one vote short of the two-thirds council majority to override a mayoral veto.
“The mayor’s veto is sustained,” Paris said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.
April 22, 2011
Jeremy Richards on Macon, GA smoking ban fight
News Talk 940 WMAC
Smoking Ban Moves Forward in Macon
Tobacco Retailers Say Macon Going ‘Smoke Free’ Would Risk Local Jobs, Businesses
International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association, 105 Copper Trail, Canton, GA 30114 United States
January 22, 2011
A group met Friday morning to talk about a citywide anti-smoking ordinance for Macon.
They call themselves the Breathe Easy Macon Coalition, and they talked about the health effects of first- and second-hand smoke, especially on people who work in restaurants and bars.
Greg Dent, President of Community Health Works says, “It’s important we get the awareness out there and see if Macon is ready to do something about second-hand smoke.”
The group may propose an ordinance banning smoking in all restaurants and bars, and within 20 feet of any public building.
This meeting marks the first step of the process. Next they plan to send out surveys to people and get feedback from the business community.
Smokers have different opinions about the possibility of more regulations.
Ed Lash says, “It would be bad for me and anyone else that smokes. I mean where do you draw the line?”
The group said they may push for citywide rules like those in Savannah, which now has the state’s toughest anti-smoking law.
Nannette Turner, with Mercer School of Medicine says, “As a public health official we’re always looking to do things to improve the health of the community. It can only be beneficial to Macon to go through something like this.”
Several city council members who attended the meeting said they liked the ideas they heard.
Councilwoman Elaine Lucas said she’d like to sponsor such an ordinance. But she said she wants more information.
Council members Larry Schlesinger and Nancy White were also at the meeting with representatives of the American Cancer Society, health-care professionals and activists.
Nancy White says, “In communities and states that have done this, it has been a plus for the economy. Sales tax receipts increased a result.”
One downtown restaurant that’s already banned smoking can attest that.
Chad Evans, co-owner of The Rookery says, “Business has doubled. Our numbers look good. I think people appreciate the clean smoke-free atmosphere.”
After the meeting, organizers held a strategy session to decide what other groups to get feedback from and who to get involved in the project.
Another meeting should take place in the next month.