Restaurant Defies Smoking Ban
POSTED: 11:44 am EST July 10, 2005
UPDATED: 11:46 am EST July 10, 2005
MARTINSVILLE, Ind. -- The owners of a Morgan County restaurant are vowing not to ban smoking at the eatery despite the threat of a lawsuit for refusing to comply with the county's recently imposed smoking restrictions.
The southern Indiana county's smoking ordinance that took effect in January requires restaurants that allow smoking to have separate rooms with separate heating and cooling systems.
Bob Williams and Linda Dunigan, owners of Charlie's Drive-In Restaurant, have been fined $200 for refusing to comply with the ordinance. A note posted on the restaurant's door spells out their position.
"This restaurant allows smoking. If this offends you, please feel free to visit one of our competitors," the sign reads. "If you choose to come in, then you enter at your own risk. Thank You."
The Morgan County Board of Health is poised to file a lawsuit against the restaurant's owners for noncompliance with the ordinance and refusing to pay the fine.
Williams' lawyer advised him not to talk to the media about the issue.
A jar on the restaurant's counter collects change for "attorney fees and fines for court to fight the smoking ban," according to a handwritten label.
Regular customers at the restaurant say the ordinance limits their personal freedom.
Butch Albertson, a 62-year-old retired factory worker, comes into Charlie's almost every morning, and doesn't mind smokers although he does not smoke himself.
"I have been eating with these people for years," he said. "I have a right to come in here, or to leave if I want to if the smoke bothers me. I don't think they have a right to tell people they can't sit in here and have a meal because they smoke."
Dr. John Reynolds, Morgan County's health officer, said the department has notified the owners at least twice about violations.
"He is in violation now, and we are intending to pursue it with a lawsuit to get a court injunction because he continues to allow smoking," Reynolds said.
If Charlie's does not abide by a court-imposed injunction, he said its owners could be held in contempt of court, and a judge would determine the penalty.
"It comes down to them being defiant," Reynolds said.
Waitress Katie Fine said that if a day in court arrives, "we are closing down and we are all going to court. Everyone that works here will be there."