Smoking Ban And Game Day Business

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Knoxville (WVLT) -- Saturday's sold-out game between UT and Georgia usually means big business for bars and restaurants.

But could the new smoking ban snuff that out?

We visited several restaurants tonight where we discovered the new ban had caught some of the Bulldog faithful by surprise.

A crowd of more than 102,000 is expected to fill Neyland Stadium for its first SEC game of the year. .

That number alone is the reason why some area restaurants say the fact you can't light up inside won't put them out business.

That number includes more than 9,000 Georgia fans whose football fix is a sure bet.

"I've come to watch the Dogs play the Tennessee Vols," said Chip Massey, a UGA fan and smoker.

But Massey was among the many Georgia fans that got a surprise when it comes to getting their nicotine fix.

"I didn't know anything about it, I just mean this guy just told me about it," said Micah Levin, a Bulldog fan.

Tennessee's smoking ban went into effect this week and that means no smoking inside any enclosed public place.

But having their ashtrays moved outside isn't anything new for Georgia fans because the "Peach State" passed a similar ban back in 2005.

"You can smoke outside," Massey said. "I have no issues with that, I don't think you should smoke indoors anyway."

But will the ban snuff out big game day business?

Probably not according to the manager of Calhoun's on the River.

The night before the big game, they were doing about one-third the amount of business they do on game days, a good portion of it in their riverside bar.

"It just really hasn't hurt us at all," said Charlie Orr, the restaurant's manager. "We are fortunate enough to have a patio where we can allow people to smoke."

Business at the Old College Inn on the Strip was also smoking without the inside smoke.

"Usually the Georgia game is one of the busiest weekends," said employee Whitney Clark.

It is so busy that the long time student hang-out is worried that it's patio, with a 25 person limit, will leave some smokers without a seat.

"It's going to be a problem with all the people wanting to smoke on the patio," Clark said. "The police have been very strict about the capacity."

Still, restaurants say the new ban hasn't been much of a problem.

"We haven't had anyone light up inside," Orr said. "We haven't had any altercations whatsoever."

Businesses say the Georgia fans started coming in yesterday and that even with the ban, it could be a record breaking sales weekend.

The smoking ban also applies anywhere inside Neyland Stadium where lighting up is punishable by a $50 fine.

For that reason, Vol fans hope the only smoking going on involves the game on Shields-Watkins Field.


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