Horry County to discuss smoking ban at bars; businesses could take hit

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Smokers, it may be a lot harder for you to light up in Horry County. Council members will consider an ordinance Tuesday to ban smoking inside public places like bars and restaurants.

Members will also discuss a ban on using tobacco on county-owned properties, like parks and recreational space.

Any bar or restaurant within unincorporated Horry County would fall under the proposal. People who break the rule could be fined anywhere from $10 to $25.

Councilman Harold Worley proposed the ordinance at council’s budget retreat in November, which mirrors the North Myrtle Beach smoking ban passed in 2012.

“There is a time and there is a place, and smoking inside a public business is wrong,” Worley told council during the retreat. “You’re gonna have the three percent that’s gonna aggravate the heck out of the others, and it’s wrong. We should do something about it.”

But the proposed ban could hurt local businesses, like 707 Bar & Grill in Socastee, that rely on smokers’ business.

“It’s gonna kill half of our business,” said 707 owner Carol Murphy. “Because a lot of our people that we get now are coming from Surfside and Myrtle Beach where there is a smoking ban already in place.”

Murphy has owned 707 for two years, and it is one of the few bars in the county where you can smoke.

“That makes us different than everywhere else in the local community,” Murphy said Monday.

Because of that, smokers flock there. “Out of all of our customers that come here, I can only think of four of them that do not smoke,” she said.

But under a proposed ordinance, they may have to look outside county lines.

“Cigarettes and alcohol go hand in hand,” Thomas Dexter said Monday while sitting at a table at Magoo’s, which sits just outside of Myrtle Beach.

“We’re supposed to have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “If smoking a cigarette inside makes me happy, I should have the right to do it.”

Another Magoo’s regular said he is also against the ordinance but will still keep coming to the bar.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” said Richard Tillman. “It’s not gonna be the same.”

Murphy said she worries about her livelihood. “I’m a disabled veteran, I can’t physically work,” she said. “And this is the only income I have.”

But she hopes loyal customers will return. “Eventually they may come back. I just don’t know if I can absorb the loss until they do.”

Council votes on both ordinances for the first time Tuesday, and each would have to pass three readings to become law.

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