Businesses Brace for Laws Targeting Unhealthy Habits

State lawmakers are pushing for rules that will regulate what people put into their lungs -- and their stomachs, a double whammy for Dallas restaurants.

Dallas' smoking ban goes into effect Friday and will prohibit smoking at all restaurants and bars. State legislators are also considering a statewide ban, as well as a measure that would ban transfats from food.

Jessica Rose, who works at the Elbow Room, a Dallas bar and grill, said she comes home smelling like an ashtray after long days.

"For my staff and myself, when we're here for eight, 10, 12 hours at a time, when we wake up in the morning, we feel like someone kicked us in the chest," Rose said.

She said she doesn't think the upcoming smoking ban will hurt business at the Elbow Room too badly.

"I think at first people might grumble about it and say, 'I'm not going to go out because of it,' but people get tired of staying at home all the time, and they'll be back in," Rose said.

But Rhonda Nail, who has owned The Dallasite, a pool hall, for more than 35 years, said the ban will snuff out her business. She said 90 percent of her customers are smokers.

"It's going to be a financial devastation for my business," Nail said.

She's already spent several thousand dollars building a patio to accomodate her smoking customers, who will have to light up outside.

"It was very expensive," Nail said. "I had to pour concrete, get patio tables. I haven't even finished yet. I have a lot more to do. I was hoping to spend that money on improving my parking lot, but I had to spend it on the patio. And it might not even work."

Another proposed bill in Austin would cut out transfats from the menu. If passed, it would make it a violation to cook using the oils, which have been linked to heart disease.

Gene Street Jr., who owns Snookies on Oak Lawn, said he knows California and New York have similar bans, but is concerned about the price a Texas ban would have on businesses.

"The alternative oils aren't cheap, and you have to be concerned about how they taste," he said.

Dallas Councilman Tennell Atkins is hoping to delay the start of the city's smoking ban for six months. A delay would give business owners more time to get permits to build patios before the ban takes effect.

Atkins hopes to find out how many business owners have permits for patios. A high number may sway the Council's decision on the delay, he said.

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