Last week, Folly Beach City Councilman Dave Stormer sent out a draft ordinance of a smoking ban to the other members of Council. The item will likely be on the agenda at Council's May 27 meeting, just as North Charleston, the only other major municipality in the county without a ban, debates their own.
"I'm a proponent of it for lots of reasons," says Stormer. "The purpose of a smoking ordinance is a worker health issue. Secondhand smoke has been determined by most scientific studies to have detrimental effects on the health of employees, and that's the bottom line. You can say, 'Well geez, they can go someplace and work where there is no smoking,' but there's only a couple of places where food service people can work on Folly that are in fact nonsmoking."
Folly Beach has a number of restaurants that have chosen to go smoke free on their own. Lost Dog Café, Taco Boy, Terrapin Café, Surf Bar, and Locklear's all prohibit smoking inside but allow it on their decks.
Councilman Eddie Ellis says the success of those businesses is proof that choice works.
"I really do feel that for a municipality to pass a law that restricts smoking in bars is a violation of the Constitution," says Ellis. "I think it's a private property owner's right to choose what they do in and outside the bar. The people writing these laws feel that people in the food and beverage industry are held captive, and have to work nighttime hours because they're students. But the customers have a choice, and the workers have a choice."
Taco Boy's Jeremiah Bowen opposes the ban as well, although it wouldn't affect his already nonsmoking bar. "This is a locals island except in the summer, and all the places that still allow smoking are pretty much your basic local hangouts — Sand Dollar, Snapper's, Follywood — it would affect them," he says.
Judd Clary, a manager at Snapper Jack's, questions the implications of dozens of smokers taking to tourist-heavy Center Street, rather than staying inside at the bar. "About half our patrons are smokers, and this could clutter up the street in the summertime when families and children are walking around," says Clary. "It would probably have a small but negative impact on our business."
Planet Follywood is one of the few bars on Center Street without an outside deck (although they've applied for a permit to build one), and would thus be more directly affected by a ban.
"I don't think it's right to put something else on the books we can't enforce," says owner D.J. Rich, who is considering starting a petition against the ban. "Everybody has a choice."
Councilman Stormer says he designed the ordinance after Greenville's, which was recently held up by the S.C. Supreme Court as legal. He removed restrictions about smoking in public gatherings like parades, but says that covered decks like those at Woody's Pizza and Surf Bar may fall in the "no smoking" area.
"I'm anxious for the debate," says Stormer, who argues that with nonsmokers largely outnumbering smokers in Charleston County, it makes sense to appeal to the larger contingency. "There are two sides to every story, and this one probably has five or six. I hope on this one that we'll have a public hearing on it so different people can voice their ideas and protocols."