MANAGERS OF CLYDE'S restaurant finally came to their senses and realized they were fighting a losing battle to allow smoking at its bar and tables, even if they still are unconvinced they should have lost.
The Columbia establishment's four-year challenge to Howard County's tough anti-smoking legislation has dragged on too long.
The restaurant fought efforts to ban smoking at virtually every turn. After a long legislative struggle to pass the measure and a three-year grace period to allow taverns and dining establishments to prepare for it, Clyde's still flouted the law.
Receptionists at the lakefront establishment were recently heard asking patrons whether they preferred smoking or non-smoking sections, although the law clearly banned fumes unless a restaurant has or plans to add separate, ventilated areas for smokers.
Clyde's hired powerful lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano, and strongly hinted that it would not spend an estimated $100,000 to construct a separate area for its smoking customers.
County officials called the bluff, if that's what it was, and filed a 10-count civil lawsuit against Clyde's in Circuit Court.
The legal action was an extraordinary measure for county government to take against a long-time, well-known business in the heart of Columbia, but it was necessary to show that its ordinance had some teeth.
Now, non-smoking customers and employees of restaurants will not have to worry as much about ingesting harmful second-hand smoke.
Fortunately, the legal action did not have to progress any farther. Clyde's has temporarily banned smoking and is negotiating a settlement of the county's suit.
It has submitted new plans for renovations that should please its smoking customers while providing a healthier indoor environment for its non-smoking patrons.
Clyde's deserves no commendations for finally agreeing to obey the law, as did most of its fellow restaurateurs by Jan. 1 of this year, when the legislation took full effect.
Still, Clyde's should be welcomed as a restaurant that has surrendered its dubious status of smoking outlaw.
Pub Date: 4/08/97