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Restaurant loses cigar smoking area
Amended legislation eliminates exclusive smoking area provision


The Peerless restaurant, a locally owned establishment known for its steak and seafood, has been informed by the Knox County Health Department’s Environmental Health office that its cigar smoking room is in violation of the Tennessee Non-Smoker’s Protection Act that went into effect Monday, Oct 1.

In a press release, a spokesperson for the restaurant said, “The Peerless is the only restaurant in Knoxville that offers a cigar smoking room, which was especially engineered and designed through our architectural plans. The uniqueness of the cigar room is that it has a separate ventilation system that does not interfere with the other parts of the restaurant.”

Darrin Henry, general manage of Peerless, said, “[The cigar room] is an enclosed room that has one door going into it, it seats about 20 people. The ventilation system was made to pull out the cigar smoke of up to 20 people.”

The TNSPA states that smoking is allowed only in an establishment that affirmatively restricts access to its buildings or facilities, at all times, to persons who are 21 years of age or older.

“The copy of the bill that we had had [an allowance] for a cigar room,” Henry said. “But when they signed the bill, they took it out.

“We were advertising for people to come in because we would be the only place in town [to allow smoking] unless someone built another cigar bar like ours.”

Knox County environmental specialist Camile Almeida notified Peerless of the violation and said, “A complaint was called in to us that someone heard about [the cigar room] either on the radio or on television and I was sent out there.”

“It was a perfectly viable mistake to make. They had a copy of the law that was initially [submitted for approval]. There was an entire sub-category for cigar smoking rooms that has just been taken out completely. The copy of the bill I have supplied [to The Peerless] is the one that was refined and edited.”

The Peerless owner Gary Kalogeros said the restaurant supports the law but thought there were provisions being made for cigar rooms.

“We were told by certain members of the legislative committee that these provisions would be made,” he said. “Our dining room has been smoke-free since the day we opened and we actually made our bar smoke-free one month before the ban took effect but we definitely expected to use our cigar room that we put $70,000 worth of effort into.”

Kalogeros has new plans for the room now that the cigar room is no longer an option.

“Starting in January we are going to turn it into Knoxville’s first sushi and Kobe beef lounge. We are going to extend our bar to include the lounge,” he said. “We are moving forward and not looking back.”

The TNSPA also does not make provisions for establishments that restrict their facilities to patrons aged 21 years or older after a certain time.

Under the TNSPA a person who knowingly smokes in an area where smoking is prohibited shall be subject to a civil penalty of $50.

A person who owns, manages, operates or otherwise controls any public place where smoking is prohibited, and who knowingly fails to comply with the law shall be subject to the following: for a first violation in any 12-month period, a written warning, for a second violation in any 12-month period, a civil penalty of $100 and for a third violation in any twelve-month period, a civil penalty of $500.

Each day on which a knowing violation occurs is considered a separate and distinct violation.

The Tennessee departments of health and of labor and workforce will work in conjunction to enforce this law.

For a complete copy of the TNSPA, view www.state.tn.us.

 

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