By Jim Smith
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has rejected a challenge to the Barnstable Board of Health’s ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, dashing the hopes of bar owners in the mid-Cape area who are complaining that the ban enacted last spring has been detrimental to business.
As reported in the Irish Echo last summer, pubs along busy Rte. 28 in West Yarmouth, which have historically been popular gathering spots for Irish summer visitors, saw a sharp decline in business last year following the April 3 enactment of smoking bans in Barnstable, Yarmouth and Dennis.
Visiting Irish students and tourists complained about the lack of conviviality in the bars after being cautioned about lighting up, and some European visitors vowed never to return. Under town of Barnstable regulations, patrons caught smoking can be fined $50, while owners face fines of $100 for each offense.
The SJC ruling issued last Thursday denied an injunction sought by the Windjammer Lounge in Hyannis. Owner Peter Feeney said Monday that he was disappointed but not surprised by the ruling. "We still have our regular customers in our downstairs bar, but a lot of them liked to smoke and they’re not staying as long as they used to," he said. "The tobacco-control crowd is very well-funded and they’re on the move, but I don’t think they’ll have as much success if they pull this stuff in Boston."
Bars in Boston and most neighboring towns and cities allow for some smoking in bars and restaurants, but that may change in light of this ruling.
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In its unanimous decision, the court said that health boards throughout the state have been empowered by the legislature to "adopt reasonable health regulations." It is expected that other communities in Massachusetts, emboldened by that ruling, will now move forward with similar total bans on smoking in eating and drinking establishments.