It's called simply “the List.” Composed of a user-generated inventory of restaurants around the state that still allow smoking, along with comments from users, it aims to roll up and smoke the legislation that effectively ended smoking in Virginia restaurants.
The brainchild of Moe Marchetti, the List — found at SmokeFreelyVa.com — is more than a defiant swipe at the state ban. It's a battle cry of freedom against the tyranny of the “Communistwealth of Virginia,” as Marchetti sees it.
“It's not appropriate in Virginia for the governor to get involved in private business to this extent,” Marchetti says. “We had something that wasn't broken and the government decided to fix it.”
Marchetti's list includes restaurants that have separate indoor-smoking sections, but also includes a conspiratorial list of so-called smoke-at-your-own-risk restaurants — places that allow patrons to smoke illegally and pay the fine if they're caught. Marchetti doesn't include restaurants on the List that offer only outdoor smoking sections because there's no convenience in freezing while you smoke.
Despite the existence of smoke-at-your-own-risk restaurants, police officials in Richmond and in Henrico and Chesterfield counties say they haven't issued a single citation since the ban went into effect Dec. 1.
The list may help draw draggers to smoke-friendly restaurants, but some local spots once known for their yellowed wallpaper and nicotine-perfumed air are hurting because of the smoking ban. Sean McClain, owner of Bandito's Burrito Lounge in Richmond, claims $1,000 a day in business lost to the ban.
“People come to a bar to smoke and they can't, so there are lots of complaints,” McClain says. So far, he says, there have been no calls to the police, but the drop in business has prompted McClain to install a wall creating a separate smoking area. Assuming the city inspection of the new partition goes well, McClain says he's joining the List too.
Marchetti's ideas for smokefreelyva.com don't end with the List. He plans to offer door decals for smoking restaurants and to create point-of-interest downloads for car global-positioning systems to allow smokers turn-by-turn directions to their next smoke break.
Marchetti says it's all in a day's work in his effort to combat “an exercise in government folly.”