Smoke Free Little Rock Campaign Launches

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A new effort has launched in Little Rock to make the city smoke-free, including in bars. Proponents say it's the right move for public health but some bar owners fear it's bad for business.

The campaign officially kicked off Wednesday with an event at the Hillcrest Fountain, normally a smoking bar that went smoke free for the night.

"Everyone you see is here tonight because it's non-smoking," said Fountain owner Daniel Bryant.

"People need to be able to go out and enjoy a night on the town, like we are tonight, and not have to worry about smoking," said Michael Keck from the Smoke Free Little Rock campaign.

While temporarily going smoke-free gave new customers a breath of fresh air, Bryant says he wouldn't trade his smoking regulars for a new crowd, as many have been coming here for more than a decade.

"They're loyal to us, we're loyal to them," he said.

Loyalty between management and customers runs deep as well across town at another smoking bar, Midtown.

Midtown regular Landon Monahan says it would make him terribly upset if he was banned from smoking in the bar. It's where he usually goes to unwind after work with a drink and a cigarette.

"Maggie gives us a place to do that," he said.

He's referring to Maggie Hinson, the owner of Midtown.

"I'm really not happy about the whole thing," Hinson said, referring to the Smoke Free Little Rock campaign. She fears the impact on her business if she's forced to go smoke-free.

"So what will end up happening here, I'm afraid, is that I will just have to pay fines because people are going to do what they want to do," she said.

Hinson is hopeful the city will choose to let bars continue to make the choice, and that this smoke-free campaign eventually goes up in smoke.

Smoke Free Little Rock says it's already been in talks with city leaders about drafting up an ordinance and hope to have that ordinance drafted up within the next month.

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