BAR HARBOR — Several bars in the downtown here were warned by a state liquor enforcement officer last week for allowing smoking in outdoor seating areas.
Carmen Veranda, Cottage Street Pub, the Dog and Pony Tavern and Little Anthony’s all have outdoor areas where the businesses had been allowing smoking when food is not being served. Patrons are now asked to leave the property if they wish to smoke.
“Before 9 p.m., we had a designated deck railing for smokers, away from diners,” said Amanda Gallant, who owns the Dog and Pony with her husband, Dustin. “After 9, we stop serving food outside on the deck and don’t allow anyone under 21 in the building, a house policy we have always enforced,” she continued. “At that time, we allowed smoking in the whole deck/courtyard area.”
At 11:30 p.m. on Friday, July 10, state liquor inspector Randy Mosley informed the Gallants that patrons shouldn’t be smoking on the deck area of their tavern, Gallant said. He did not issue a written citation or warning. They immediately removed the ashtrays and asked patrons to put out their cigarettes.
Confusion about the applicable state law centers on whether smoking is prohibited only in an outdoor area where food is served, or also where beverages are served. The law says smoking is prohibited in outdoor eating areas where food or drink is served to the public by the establishment for consumption on the premises.
Mosley also visited other Bar Harbor establishments and some in Ellsworth, Gallant said, and found the same thing happening on decks and outdoor spaces. “Many businesses have been forced to put smokers in the street for years because they didn’t have deck space or designated outside areas. Some had built decks and designated areas when the indoor smoking ban occurred years ago.”
The last vestiges of indoor smoking in bars and restaurants were banned in 2004.
The change has created some operational issues for the businesses, Gallant said.
“When we allowed smoking on the deck, we were able to watch and control the crowd. Now that we force them outside, we don’t know if they are drinking in their cars before returning or having issues with other people in the parking lot or street. They would need to leave their drinks behind unattended.
“If it’s so busy we need to stop letting people in the door, and people are in the street smoking with drinks left inside and tabs unpaid, they get stuck outside until it slows down and we can allow more people in. We can control what happens inside. Once people are in the street, we can’t. We have increased staff to help enforce the no-smoking-in-the-courtyard rule and to help manage the customers coming in and out.”
Gallant said most customers have been very understanding. Some are happy to hear there will be no more smoking. “We do care about the smoking laws. Mr. Mosley was just doing his job, which we respect. I personally am not a smoker, but the advantages we had by allowing it on the deck outweighed the disadvantages.”
Attempts to contact Mosley for this story were unsuccessful.