In D.C., One Last Puff Before the Clock Strikes 12

Darrell Green, the owner of Adams Mill in Adams Morgan, lights up a cigar on the last night of smoking in D.C nightclubs, bars and restaurants.
Darrell Green, the owner of Adams Mill in Adams Morgan, lights up a cigar on the last night of smoking in D.C nightclubs, bars and restaurants. (By Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Behind the wooden bar at the watering hole he owns in the heart of Adams Morgan, Darrell Green reached into his shirt pocket yesterday for his box of Marlboro Lights. He lighted a cigarette. A haze of smoke wafted through Adams Mill Bar & Grill under the revolving blades of ceiling fans.

"There's no bones about it," Green said. "When you walk in here, you definitely know it's a smoking establishment."

That changed at midnight. As of today, a D.C. law bans smoking in nightclubs, restaurants and bars, fully implementing a citywide smoking ban that began in April when smoking became illegal in the dining areas of restaurants.

Smoking in some public places also is banned in Montgomery, Prince George's, Howard and Charles counties in Maryland, as well as in at least 10 states, including New York and California. Virginia still allows smoking in bars.

The D.C. ban was modeled partly after a smoking ban enacted in New York City in March 2003. A New York government study showed that the city's bar and restaurant industry was thriving one year after the ban began. Still, many of the District's restaurant, bar and hotel owners -- including Green -- opposed the D.C. ban, which the D.C. Council approved in an 11 to 1 vote last January.

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who introduced the smoking ban along with incoming mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), then a council member, said he is pleased to see the law fully implemented.

"It's about time," Mendelson said. "The government absolutely has to be about public health, and this is a public health issue."

"This isn't a ban of smoking," Mendelson added. "This simply improves the workplace and places where many people congregate. . . . The bottom line is, it's a good thing."

But inside Adams Mill yesterday, some regular patrons disagreed. Smoking is a personal choice, they said, and if patrons don't like smoke, they can go elsewhere.

"You have a choice," Joseppie Rossa said. "The government's not giving us a choice. They can't take that right away from us."

Rossa, 33, lives in neighboring Columbia Heights and calls the bar his second home. He has a routine: order a Miller Lite or screwdriver, smoke a few Marlboro Lights or cigars and hang out.

Yesterday was no different. As the USC-Michigan college football game aired on televisions throughout the bar, Rossa railed against the District government. "You know what? I am going to smoke until midnight," he said before lighting up a cigar.

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