Smoke free law getting some complaints

January 8, 2010 9:58:02 PM PST
Officials say they have been getting some complaints about the smoking ban.It has almost been one full week since a smoking ban went into effect for North Carolina bars and restaurants.

Most places are in compliance, but not everybody. Some counties have been getting complaints about people still smoking and some bars are still complaining about their customers having to stop.

Leslie Crabtree owns Bralie's Sports Bar in Durham. It's a member's only club and now her members have to smoke outside.

Crabtree says up until Friday, she was letting her members smoke inside, but only because she had misinterpreted the law.

"I was under the impression that we were not affected by it," she said. "We're a private club with private members."

County health departments are responsible for holding bars and restaurants accountable. But the process doesn't start with monetary fines, they say it starts with education.

"When we get the first complaint, we go out and do education with the individual to help them understand the nuances of the law," Durham County Health Director Gayle Harris said.

Harris says those nuances are important - bar owners have to post no smoking signs inside, there can't be any ashtrays inside and if someone is smoking and it's up to the owner to tell them to stop.

In Crabtree's case, Bralie's wasn't exempt, because it's not a non-profit.

She says now that she knows the law, she'll follow it. But she says she hopes to find a way around it even if that means making changes to let her customers light up once again.

"It's not going to last forever because we are restructuring the way we're set up," Crabtree said.

There have been a number of complaints in other counties as well.

Cumberland County tops the list with 12 complaints of people smoking in bars. Wake County with a handful of complaints, but mostly questions about the new law and so far, no complaints in Orange or Johnston counties.

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