Neighbors Not Happy With Bar Patrons Smoking Outside

CLEVELAND (AP) - Bars seeking to comply with Ohio's indoor smoking ban have erected outdoor patios where smokers can go to light up, much to the displeasure of some nearby homeowners who don't appreciate the sights and sounds of tavern crowds.

Bob Visnic, owner of The Oriole Cafe in Berea, a suburb west of Cleveland, said he's aware of neighbors' concerns, but he's moving forward with plans to build a patio for smokers because his business has declined since the smoking ban took effect last year.

His patio, which will seat about 60 people, will be equipped with televisions and satellite radio. To appease neighbors, the Berea planning commission issued Visnic a three-month probationary permit and said he must stop serving food and drinks outside at 10 p.m. Visnic agreed.

"You want to be neighbor-friendly," he said.

Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a ban on smoking in most indoor public places last November. The statewide law prohibits smoking in most public places, including restaurants, bars and offices.

But many bar owners didn't pick up their ashtrays until May when the state began enforcing the new smoking rules.

Berea resident Velvet Cunningham said she doesn't like noise coming from a social club for the Fraternal Order of the Eagles across the street from her house.

"It's just annoying," she said.

Since enforcement of the smoking ban began, Cunningham said she has had trouble sleeping because she hears constant chit-chat from smokers taking their cigarettes outside the club. She worries the noise will increase when the club finishes building an outdoor deck.

"We still have the right to a peaceful neighborhood," Cunningham said.

Eagles trustee Douglas McJunkins said he doesn't think there is cause for concern. Any commotion on the deck will be dwarfed by the numerous trains that pass by, he said.

Jay Carey, a spokesman for the Ohio Health Department, which established rules for enforcing the smoking ban, said he had no information on proliferation of outside smoking areas.

In the Youngstown area, Caffe Capri in Boardman opened a 20- to 25-seat outdoor cocktail-only area in early August. No food is served outdoors.

Smokers are happy to have it, said Carolyn Quaranta, a member of the family that owns the restaurant.

In the German Village neighborhood in Columbus, where restaurants and taverns have mixed with homes for decades, the issue of gathering outside for smoking and conversing hasn't been a problem, perhaps in part because people there have been used to that for a long time, said resident Susan Sharrock.

"I always think it's fun walking along the sidewalk by a patio and hearing the tinkling of glasses and the people talking and laughing," she said.

Her impression is that the smoking ban has pushed more people are outside, such as near Club 185 near her home.

"It's not to the point of disruption," she said. "But I know that when people want to build a patio now, they have to go to the village commission and show what the impact will be on neighbors."

About a dozen restaurants and bars in Parma, Cleveland's largest suburb, have sought building permits for so-called smoking patios. Parma denied one patio request, said Brian Higgins, chairman of the Parma Planning Commission.

"People are going to go outside and make noises whether we have a patio or not," Higgins said. "We might as well have a controlled area."