State bar owners have been raising opposition to the statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants, claiming to legislators and courts that the ban is ruining their business.
While restaurants have come to appreciate the ban’s unforeseen effect of increasing sales, the president of the N.C. Bar, Pub & Tavern Association recently wrote a letter to the N.C. General Assembly urging legislators to exclude profit-making bars from the ban.
Sales at Gate City Billiards Club, a private club in Greensboro, have decreased 25 percent since the 2010 ban , said Don Liebes, the club’s owner and president of the association.
“We’re different from restaurants,” he said, adding that 75 percent of his customers smoke. “The ban put us at a competitive disadvantage.”
Because of the ban, the club has lost $30,000 since January, Liebes said. On an average Friday night, the club now serves 30 fewer customers — about a 15 percent decrease.
“We’re not making any money,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before we go under.”
Bar and restaurant owners in the state were initially concerned that the ban would be an excessive regulation, said Brad Hurley, co-owner of the 42nd Street Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill in Raleigh and chairman-elect of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association.
But some restaurant owners now say the ban has boosted sales. In a letter sent Oct. 5 by the restaurant association to the legislature, one restaurant owner reportedly observed a 25 to 30 percent growth in sales since 2009.