Sports Bar Not A Fan Of Gulfport Smoking Ban

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Gulfport's new smoking ban has ignited a firestorm at a Highway 49 sports bar. The manager of Nate's is so mad about the newly adopted prohibition, she's going to the next city council meeting to request a smoking ban modification.

When Nathan Colian bought a Highway 90 property and decided to open a sports bar and grill, nobody was talking publicly about a smoking ban in Gulfport. So the owner of Nate's feel a bit cheated. He feels he invested money into a Gulfport property, unaware the rules of the game were about to change.

And that's especially troublesome to this Gulfport entrepreneur. With the NCAA basketball tournament beginning, this is a time of year that should put the sports bar owner in heaven.

"It's a great atmosphere. Nothing like the Final Four," he said.

But because Colian's bar and grill serves food, it's about to become a smoke free establishment.

"What the problem is with that is a lot of people who go to bars, even if they're no smokers or smokers, they're going to smoke," Colian said.

Beth Burdeshaw runs the Highway 49 sports bar. She considers Gulfport's new smoking ban more maddening than a college basketball upset during March madness.

"That's a game," Burdeshaw said, referring to the basketball game on a TV screen above her head. "This is not a game. This is serious, serious business."

The ban approved on Tuesday by the Gulfport City Council prohibits smoking at any Gulfport establishment where at least 15 percent of its business comes from food sales. Nate's falls into that category. Burdeshaw believes the percentage would be more fair if it was up to 30 percent.

"Our food is good food. And we want to be able to serve it without a handicap put on that," she said.

So, Nate's manager contacted other bar owners, and tried to get them behind her effort to ask Gulfport to rewrite the smoking ordinance. Gary Simpson runs another bar on Highway 49 in Gulfport.

"Like I said, if they would go to 30 percent, that would be something I think everybody could live with," he said.

However, Burdeshaw sank an eight ball when she talked with Skeeter's owner Ricky Dombrowski.

"If you're going to do a non-smoking, just do non-smoking," he said.

Dombrowski has never had a problem with Gulfport's decision to eliminate smoking at his bar, or in his pool hall.

Despite that opinion, the crew at Nate's plans to bring its smoking ban compromise to the Gulfport City Council on April 8th. Otherwise, Colian said the consequences could be disastrous.

"They will go to another bar, they'll drive the five to 10 minutes and go to a bar where they can smoke and feel comfortable and relax," he argued, "because when they want to sit here and watch the game, they want to have their beer, they want to smoke their cigarette, and they want to watch the game."

On May 1 when the ordinance goes into effect, Gulfport will become one of 20 cities around the state to prohibit smoking in public places.