Third hearing on Smoke-Free Savannah ordinance set

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The city of Savannah will hold one last public hearing Aug. 12 on Smoke-Free Savannah, the day the ordinance is read for the first time.

City officials say the strict smoking ban, which would eliminate smoking in all businesses, including bars, hookah and cigar bars, and outdoor seating areas, plus outlaw smoking 20 feet from any entrance, could see some changes after the first reading of the ordinance.

Two previous public hearings on the issue raised questions about the implimentation of the law in Savannah, and some city council members have told WTOC they would like to see a compromise, eliminating the ban on smoking 20 feet from any entrance, plus outdoor seating and for businesses, like hookah bars, who are already in business.

"Our product is not tobacco. It is 0% nicotine, 0% tar," Tony Marsid told WTOC.

5 months ago, Marsid and his brother opened up The Mirage on Broughton Street. Open for lunch and dinner, The Miraje becomes a hookah bar after 10pm.

"It's the hookah. Our concept was always based on the hookah," Marsid said.

Hookah is smoked through a hookah pipe, with all kinds of flavors. Smoke-Free Savannah, as it is written now, would make Marsid's business illegal.

"Of course, like everyone, I was a little worried, but the outcome will be good," Marsid said of the ban.

With his business on the line, Marsid spoke with members of Savannah City Council to explain his product is not tobacco, therefore, should not be included under the smoking ban.

"They seem to be pretty understanding," he said. "We'll just wait and see the outcome of this."

"If the hookah bar can show us there are no ill effects, then being rational people we should take that into consideration," Mayor Otis Johnson told WTOC.

Mayor Johnson is pushing hard for a smoke free Savannah, and says he is open to changes. "We're going to try and take a rational approach to this," he said.

Besides hookah bars, the city is looking at possibly allowing smoking in outdoor seating areas,  and within 20 feet of business entrances, after recent cries from the public and fellow council members.

"It seems there is some debate about the 20 foot measurement," Johnson said. "That may be one area where there will be some give and take on, but as an ordinance as a whole, I don't see any major changes. At this point we are saying this a no smoking ordinance, but our main concern is tobacco smoke."

"They are open-minded you know," Marsid said. "I'm sure they will come up with the best solution for everyone."

The public will be given one final chance to comment on Smoke-Free Savannah at the city council meeting Aug. 12, when the law is read for the first time.

The city will make any changes following the first reading of the full, original proposal, and then it would come back to the council two to four weeks later for a final vote if changes are made.

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