For the past several months fliers have hung from the walls of Adam Bliss's local hookah bar. They asked customers to call senators and lobby for an amendment to an anti-smoking bill that would keep Hookah Bliss open.
Bliss called the senators himself twice a day. He contacted hookah bars across the state to fight for an amendment. But after much effort his lobby has failed.
The bill which was ratified May 13 by the N.C. General Assembly will prohibit smoking in all restaurants and bars. It was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Bev Perdue" causing Bliss to have to close his doors in January since he serves both alcohol and tobacco products.
""The state government didn't do anything to help me start this business"" Bliss said. Then the state comes along and basically wants to shut down my business without any compensation.""
Legislation does allow for some tobacco-based businesses to stay open.
The new law permits cigar bars and private clubs to continue operating. However" Bliss said it would not be possible to change his business to fit under either of these categories.
A cigar bar is defined to make more than 25 percent of its profits from cigars" which Bliss does not serve. A private club is defined as a country club or organization linked with a nonprofit organization which does not provide food or lodging to a person who is not a member or member's guest.
""This bill has basically protected the playground of the rich and elite"" he said, noting his confusion about why an amendment would be passed for a cigar bar but not a hookah bar. They are allowing the exact same types of businesses to operate.""
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird" D-Orange who tried to write the amendment allowing hookah bars to continue operating" said she does not think the bill does its intended purpose.
She also said the hookah bars were unable to get legislation passed because they had a smaller lobby than country clubs and cigar bars.
""I'm hoping someday we will get a real" meaningful smoking ban which we don't have yet" Kinnaird said.
Sen. William Purcell, D-Anson, said he thought the smoking ban was a good idea and knew that it would shut down some hookah bars.
He said some hookah bars could qualify as cigar bars with some modifications, and the senate will work to get an amendment passed for the hookah bars to stay in business.
I've never been to a hookah bar and I don't know all that they do"" Purcell said. But I'm not interested in closing anybody's business.""
Both Kinnaird and Purcell voted in approval of the law.
""I think it's a work in progress" Kinnaird said. Something is better than nothing" and that's the way democracy works.""
Awaiting his uncertain future"" Bliss said he thinks the smoking ban is unnecessary.
He said the legislature should not be able to decide what can be done inside an establishment when the activities are legal.
""The bottom line is tobacco is still a legal product"" he said. Now they're telling certain people they can and certain people they can't.""
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