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Bandito's Owner Fires Back Against “Ghost Tribe” Leader

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The gist of “Slash” Coleman's letter was that he is happy that a law was passed banning smoking in restaurants and that it upsets him that, as he put it, “ignorant restaurant and bar owners such as Sean McClain” (that's me) are trying to sidestep the law out of some sort of fear (“Smoking Renegades: Meet the ‘Ghost Tribe,'” Letters, Jan. 6). Coleman pontificates on, using many insulting, self-righteous phrases to make his point that he and his “thousands of nonsmoking friends” would make much better clientele than the smokers that frequent our “nasty hovels,” and that we don't seem to understand that with time, we'll all make more money than we ever fathomed.

For God's sake, “studies” have been done! Unfortunately, his “ignorance” of the real picture shows his opinion to be nothing more than any other misguided water-cooler diatribe around town. You see (I'll speak for myself although I know many other owners feel this way), it's not that we were against a ban on smoking; in fact, I for one was all for it. The problem is that the Virginia ban came with an added bonus: that the law is completely compromised. If the law were really no smoking in all restaurants period, there would be no reason to complain. The rules would be the same for everyone and like the “studies” suggest, people would adapt and profits would return if not flourish.

But that's not the case here in old Virginia. The tobacco company dollars spoke loud enough to force the politicians to undermine their own law. They made it so you actually can smoke in your place as long as you install a separate room that meets certain criteria. That means if you have the funds and or space to do these things, the whole health issue is out the window. If you don't, you will lose business to those that do. Fair? I think not. It only creates an unbalanced playing field putting some businesses at a serious disadvantage.

Like it or not, people in bars often like to smoke. If they can, they will. Until this law is rectified, there will be unrest among some owners, and polarizing opinions by people who probably don't know the whole story. We owners didn't make this law, but we must do what we can individually to be competitive.

It's easy to call out the restaurant owners for not catering to the self-righteous desires of one particular group, but this is business. My business is to create equal accommodations for as many kinds of people as I can within the parameters of the law. The “stupid wall” we built, as Coleman calls it, allows us to offer a smoke-free environment and a place for smokers as well. At least we put forth an effort. If Mr. Coleman and his “Ghost Tribe” (self-titled group of people that don't smoke) want to begrudge a business for catering to everyone, so be it.

Sean McClain
Richmond

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