- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2004

Rockville’s ban on smoking in public places began yesterday, but it looked like business as usual inside Orangeball Billiards and Cafe.

With the kickoff to the Super Bowl just hours away, patrons of the Orangeball, in the 400 block of Hungerford Drive, were playing pool, throwing darts, watching sporting events on dozens of televisions and puffing away on cigarettes.

“Technically, today is supposed to be the start of the ban,” said manager Robert Dinh, 27. “But the city is not enforcing it.”

A city spokesman confirmed yesterday that officials were not looking for violations and said the ban would be enforced by responding to complaints.

The Montgomery County Council voted this past summer to ban smoking in public places in unincorporated areas of the county, but allowed cities to adopt the ban, modify and adopt it or allow smoking to continue.

Poolesville and Kensington officials chose to allow smoking, while Rockville agreed Dec. 8 to adopt the ban.

The Gaithersburg mayor and City Council have yet to vote and will hold their next public hearing on the issue Feb. 9.

Rockville Mayor Larry Giammo supported the ban, which has brought opposition from restaurant owners who fear it would drive business out of Rockville and into neighboring cities that still allow smoking.

Rockville officials rejected a compromise proposal by Council member Robert E. Dorsey, who suggested no smoking until 9 p.m. and allowing bar and restaurant owners to decide whether to ban smoking after that.

Rockville business owners had two months to start making changes.

The Broadway Cafe on Rockville Pike started the ban in October, in anticipation of the ban, said manager Dimitri Angelakis, 55.

He said business has dropped off late at night, when many people come from clubs and shows to the cafe, which is open 24 hours a day.

“They want to smoke,” he said. However, daytime business has improved since the ban, he said.

Rockville officials are offering consulting assistance to restaurants where the ban has had a significant effect.

Employees who lose their jobs as a result of the ban will receive career counseling, job-search information and placement assistance.

This is not Rockville’s first attempt at curbing smoking in public places.

A previous ordinance stated that bars and restaurants that allowed smoking and had a serving area for 25 or more patrons had to set aside nonsmoking areas.

Restaurants that violate the new smoking ban will receive a letter of warning for the first offense, followed by a visit by an inspector upon a second complaint.

If violations continue, bars and restaurants face $25 to $50 fines.

Repeat offenders could lose their licenses to serve food.

“The ban has no impact on us,” said Deborah Santos, 20, of Rockville, who was eating lunch yesterday in the Broadway Cafe. “We don’t smoke.”

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