Smoking Law Under Fire

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Grae Dickson is general manager of the Crescent City Grill, a combination restaurant and bar area in Meridian. He said he was never told an ordinance was under consideration to make public areas like restaurants and bars smoke free.

"I never received anything and this is one of those things I feel we should have had a public hearing on it just so the other restaurant owners as well as myself could have a voice in this amendment," Dickson said.

Dickson said if such a hearing is called he will appear.

"I'll tell them I feel it is the right of my customers to choose, just like I'm able to choose my menu, my seating arrangements, my atmosphere," Dickson said. "I believe it is my customers' right to choose whether they would like to come in to this establishment, whether smoking or not, and the main reason I do offer a non-smoking area in my restaurant is so I can accommodate all the customers in Meridian."

Thomas Sipp operates the Sportsman's Club on Fifth Street in downtown Meridian, the only "after hours" establishment in town. He said 75 percent of his customers smoke.

"It will be a tremendous effect on this business because if you have 75 percent of your customers coming in smoking, it will be devastating to all the clubs and restaurants here in Meridian, Mississippi," said Sipp.

As for the provision which fines the club operator if a customer is caught smoking in his establishment and hasn't been warned it is against the law, Sipp said that is unenforceable.

"That's impossible to do," said Sipp. "I'm talking about ,you have to be at your front door and every door policing everyone who comes in and letting them know that they cannot smoke. This is a two story building. There's no way I can police the whole entire facility 24 hours a day or either four hours a night."

Sipp said if the city has a public hearing, he too, will be there to speak.

Mayor John Robert Smith has called a special city council meeting for next Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. at the Meridian Police Courtroom. It will be for public discussion of the ramifications of the smoking ban. The meeting is open to the public.