It’s been a heated topic of discussion for six long months in the Azalea City: should local bars be exempt from the city's clean air ordinance? The issue has many local bar owners holding their breath for City Council's decision in Thursday’s meeting.
After six months the clean air ordinance has proved to be economically devastating for many area bar owners.
Eric Saunders, Charley O'Corley's owner, says, "It’s completely crippled it. We have lost over $120,000 in gross revenue which is about 41 percent of our business. I've lost all my regulars."
Saunders says the Valdosta smoking ban has forced him to move to a building in the town of Remerton, and he says many local bar owners also have to consider other options.
Saunders adds, "Remerton has the attraction of Sunday sales in which I would gain another day of sales. The row of bars that are there now are very successful and I just felt that it was the perfect fit for me."
Even though council members will vote to exempt free standing bars from the smoking ban in Thursday night’s meeting, it won’t be enough to keep Charley O'Corley's in Valdosta.
Saunders says, "There's no guarantee that it’s gonna pass and there's no guarantee that in six months they can't come along and undo what they've done and go back to the original one."
For other area bar owners Thursday’s decision will decide the fate of their crumbling businesses. Councilman Robert Yost will be absent in the meeting, so in the case of a tie Mayor Fretti will break the tie with his vote. The meeting begins at 5:30.