Smoking rule change fires up businessman

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

PRATTVILLE , AL (WSFA) - To comply with the mandate passed in 2003, Jose's Cantina owner Jose Perez spent $50,000 to have it both ways; one side for smokers, the other side for non-smokers, both sections separated by a wall, complete with their own ventilation systems and bathrooms.

"It's not fair,' said Perez.

'Not fair' what the Prattville City Council might do. Change the current ordinance that would bar customers and employees younger than 19 years old from smoking in restaurants. Perez says he would have to immediately lay off 7 of his 19 workers if the proposal passes and that's not all. Perez estimates he'll lose about 40% of his business as well.

"They will go to the Millbrook area. If I knew this 6 years ago I could have saved $50,000 and keep that money in my pocket," said Perez.

Prattville Councilman and medical doctor Tom Miller said from his office in downtown Montgomery that while business owners like Jose have solid arguments, in the end it's not about their business but something far more valuable; good health. Dr. Miller and city council president Dean Argo support the proposed modification.

"Because of my background in health, I see the health effects of second-hand smoke. The children and youths are more valuable. It's not a Jose issue but at the same time I can't put a premium on our youths health," said Dr. Miller.

Jose Perez also brings up the argument the city in theory could be shooting itself in the foot; less customers, fewer sales tax dollars.

"I haven't seen that where that's come to fruition," said Miller.

Miller adds enforcement is not a concern because the ordinance tends to enforce itself, so far no blatant violators on the current ordinance.

Meantime, it's not clear just which way this will go. The Prattville City Council could vote on the issue next Tuesday since it's on the agenda.

One survey at the Alabama Department of Public Health shows that a little more than 22% of Alabamians smoke.

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