Local restaurants begin experimenting with cleaner atmosphere

Shelley Blundell

The debate has raged since Americans were first told about the effects smoking had on the human body.

Quickly, factions were created for and against smoking, and people concerned for their health did their best to make their environments non-smoking.

Then the industry followed.

Country Diner, located at 520 E. Market St. in Akron, is Akron’s first 24-hour non-smoking restaurant, and according to recent trends, it will probably not be the last.

“The reaction has been extremely positive,” said Ed Davidian, manager of Country Diner. “We’d been thinking about it for a long time, and in January (2005) we stopped hiring employees who smoked. We offered current employees the option that if they wanted to quit, we would pay for half of their patches” or other smoking cessation methods.

The restaurant has seen a few different customers come in since the policy was made, and no one seems to mind too much that the restaurant is now exclusively non-smoking, Davidian said.

When Country Diner initially investigated a non-smoking policy, it gave customer surveys and spoke to other restaurateurs across the country via the Internet. Davidian said the response overwhelmingly called for a cleaner airspace, where people could enjoy their meal in a smoke-free environment.

Even though Country Diner is known by many regulars as the after-hours party, complete with smoke, Davidian said the new policy has not turned many away.

“Our regulars still come in and eat. They just don’t smoke,” Davidian said.

Andrew Kale, a 22-year-old former Kent State student, eats at the Country Diner in Akron a few times a month and said he is not happy about the diner’s new policy.

“I like to be able to sit and have a few cigarettes in between food and such, so it will probably force me to go elsewhere where I can still enjoy smoking in a restaurant,” Kale said. “I don’t feel it’s selfish if there is a proper separation between the (smoking and non-smoking) sections.”

Kale also said the new policy will affect the diner’s business, especially from regulars, despite Davidian’s claims to the contrary.

“People who smoke want to enjoy it at a restaurant — but if I’m intoxicated, I’ll probably go to Country Diner because it’s close to home,” Kale said.

John Rosado, a 26-year-old Akron resident and Country Diner regular, does not mind non-smoking restaurants.

“More power to them if they want the clean atmosphere — I think smoking in a restaurant is kind of selfish because people shouldn’t have to inhale other’s smoke,” Rosado said.

But Rosado, a smoker himself, said smokers just want to smoke.

“I think it may affect (the diner’s customers) because normal clientele in the late evenings are intoxicated and looking for something to eat, and when you’re drunk you want to smoke — I like to smoke after eating my dinner and relax,” Rosado said.

The Rathskeller is one of the few places students can smoke indoors on the Kent State campus. So what would the reaction be if this smoker’s staple became non-smoking?

“You should have at least one place on campus you can smoke inside, especially in the winter,” said Kristen Benko, junior justice studies major. “We hang out here every day and smoke. It would not be cool if they took that away.”

Allison Dickey, sophomore metalworking major, felt a lot more strongly than Benko about the issue.

“Many people would revolt,” Dickey said. “We’d take down everything in here — we’d wear the jerseys and walk around smoking in them. We’d be that pissed.”

While some non-smokers are adamant that smokers should keep the habit to themselves, there are some who are willing to compromise.

“If I don’t want to be around smokers, I’m more than welcome to sit in a non-smoking section of whatever restaurant I wish,” said Nick Watkins, junior computer science major. “I can always go somewhere else, too.”

If one estimates that the average smoker smokes three cigarettes during the 8-hour work day, spending 10 minutes each cigarette, then for a 50-week work period more than 125 man hours are lost a year from each smoking employee.

Contact general assignment reporter Shelley Blundell at [email protected].