Bluffton officials may allow 'cigar bars' under smoking ban change

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comJune 15, 2013 

Bluffton residents might soon be allowed to light up and drink indoors in a certain type of bar -- one whose main focus is cigars -- under a proposed change to the town's smoking law.

The law bans indoor smoking in restaurants and bars, among other public places.

But on Tuesday, Town Council tentatively approved a provision for "cigar bars," tobacco shops that would be allowed to sell beer and wine while patrons smoked. The amendment would allow only cigars -- not cigarettes.

The proposal was made at the request of Councilman Ted Huffman on behalf of Burt Sky, owner of Peaceful Henry's Cigars and Tobacco on Bluffton Road, according to town officials.

Sky said he wants to expand his business beyond tobacco sales and make Bluffton consistent with other South Carolina communities -- including Hilton Head Island, Charleston and Greenville -- that make similar exceptions to their smoking bans.

Tobacco shops are already exempt from the smoking ban, but selling beer and wine would require a special provision in town ordinance, along with a state beer and wine license.

The town's proposed amendment also says a cigar bar:

  • Must have a walk-in humidor.

  • Can't sell food or hard liquor.

  • Must earn at least 30 percent of yearly gross revenues from the sale of cigar and tobacco-related products, other than cigarettes.

  • Can't give discounts on alcohol if sold in combination with cigars or other tobacco products.

  • Town officials could not identify businesses other than Sky's that would benefit from the change.

    "We are always open to seeing how we can make things work for the betterment of all businesses, while not affecting the rules other establishments are working under and continuing to protect citizens from secondhand smoke," Mayor Lisa Sulka said.

    Attempts Friday to reach Huffman for comment were unsuccessful.

    Members of Peaceful Henry's private smoking club -- who pay a $200 annual membership -- are already allowed to bring their own liquor, wine and beer into the establishment.

    "I just want to take it to the next level," Sky said.

    Owners of two Bluffton restaurants and bars, where smoking is banned, were comfortable with the proposal.

    "I don't see it being that big of a threat, that big of a deal," said Tanya Aquino, a co-owner of R Bar & Grill in Sheridan Park. "Most people who come out to the bar are cigarette smokers. I don't see a lot of people puffing on a cigar. I don't think it would take business away from us."

    Ally Rogers, owner of Pour Richards off Bluffton Parkway, echoed the sentiment.

    "It doesn't bother me," she said. "To me, it's a non-issue."

    Bluffton Town Council could give final approval to the amendment July 16.

    Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

    Related content:

    Beaufort County mulling tobacco-free properties, parks: April 23, 2013

    Court ruling could prompt review of local smoking bans: April 5, 2008

    Bluffton passes its own smoking ban: Dec. 13, 2006

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