WEIRTON - Mike Frangos doesn't smoke and he isn't fond of it, but he likes the money he makes working at the Route 2 Cafe - a video gambling parlor in Hancock County.
"Ninety percent of our customers come here and smoke and drink a soda and relax," Frangos said. "It's something they can't do at home because they don't want their families inhaling secondhand smoke."
Frangos is one of the many business owners concerned about the Hancock County Board of Health's proposal to ban smoking in all indoor public places. The proposal currently does not include any exemptions for video gambling parlors, as the ban in Ohio County does. It also does not include an exemption for Mountaineer Casino.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
An “out of order” sign hangs on an old cigarette vending machine in the lobby of the Route 2 Cafe in Hancock County.
Frangos believes the ban would hurt the Route 2 Cafe and Mountaineer.
"That's the worst thing they could do if they want business in the area," Frangos said of expanding the ban.
People who want to smoke while gambling will decide to go to Wheeling, Brooke County or the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, he said. For Frangos, inhaling smoke every day is a small price to pay.
"I don't smoke, but you got to give up something to get something. Sure it bothers me, but with the money I make I will put up with it," he said.
"If they cut smoking out there won't be anybody anywhere. Can't they find anything else to pick on?" Frangos said of the board of health.
Gus Monezis, owner of Gus's Goodies in Weirton, said while his business is actually located in the section of Weirton that lies in Brooke County, he still would not want people smoking in his establishment.
"It's a touchy thing. I don't like to be around smoke and I don't go to places where they smoke," he said.
He noted years ago when he served as chairman of the Hancock County Board of Health, the board decided to institute the rules that are in place now - designated smoking areas.
"We really didn't get much static," Monezis said, adding the board worked on the measure for two years before enacting it.
Monezis believes the ban would hurt business at the casino and the video gambling parlors.
"I have a problem sometimes with taking all our freedom of choice away," he said.
Katie Fluharty, assistant manager of Aunt Julie's gambling parlor in Newell, believes people who don't like smoke should simply avoid the parlors.
"I feel anyone who wants to smoke, it's their prerogative," Fluharty said.
Kevin Denholm, who is the general manager of Aunt Julie's and 14 other gambling parlors in Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall counties, said a smoking ban would "devastate" the business.
"What I would like to propose to the health department is that I put up a 3 foot by 3 foot skull and cross bones and a sign that says those who don't wish to encounter smoke, don't enter," Denholm said. "Ninety five percent of my customers smoke and the other 5 percent don't care."
Denholm believes there are other public health issues the board could be trying to deal with such as the use of illegal drugs and "the pill epidemic."
"This is a private club - that's exactly what the license says. It galls me that a public entity can tell me, a private business, what to do and dictate what I can do with legal activities," he said.
When it comes to the employees, Denholm said before he hires people he asks them if they mind working around smoke.
"Ninety percent of my employees smoke and the rest don't care," he said. "All (the board) is going to accomplish is being do-gooders and they're going to run out the businesses. They are nibby. They need to take care of health issues and not worry about some people smoking in a gaming parlor."
The board of health, which includes Rick Smith, Jill Orenzuk, Wilma Boring, Phil Rujak and James Pryor, is scheduled to meet next at 12:30 p.m. May 6 at the health department, 102 N. Court St., New Cumberland. A draft copy of the proposed regulation can be found at www.hancockcountyhealthdepartment.com.