"I'm running a business, how am I supposed to sell?" Trahan asked. "Why are you coming to us, and singling us out?" He noted that the City has yet to resolve the parking problems that business owners already blame for reduced profits, and the barrage of new taxes in the county. "Did I make a mistake in coming to Montgomery County?" Trahan asked pointedly. "I feel like I did."
Sonali Seth, who said she owns an Indian restaurant in town center, said she would be in "full support" of the ban if it applied across all of Montgomery County and the region. As it is, she predicted, Rockville businesses will suffer, as smokers go to other nearby establishments where outdoor smoking remains legal. "All the businesses will be hurt," she said. "It's going to hurt us, and we will close down."
The chef-owner of Spice Xing, one of the few businesses to have long-term success on Gibbs Street, said he recently quit smoking himself, and therefore saw the value of the effort. But he suggested the Mayor and Council could make a stronger health impact by spending money on helping residents to stop smoking altogether.
Adam Zimmerman, a leading advocate for the ban, said that if smoking laws remain unchanged, 92000 Maryland children will die prematurely from smoking. Business owner and resident Joe Applebaum said that as a businessman in the health field, he thought the ban would be "phenomenal." He said allowing the 8% of people who smoke to impose health risks on the other 92% is "ridiculous."
Two other residents cited recent unpleasant experiences dining at Rockville Town Square as reasons they support the ban. Julie Mankowski of King Farm said she had just dined near the windows at Bar Louie before last night's meeting. Four people smoking outside sent smoke drifting through the windows into the restaurant where she was sitting, she said.
Likewise, a West End resident recalled her trip to Finnegan's Wake on St. Patrick's Day. "There was so much smoking" outdoors, she said, that she wound up leaving earlier than she had planned. "I just don't want to be here anymore. I just could not get away from smoke," she said.
Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said the record for public comment on the proposed ban will remain open until April 7, 2017. Last night's hearing failed to provide the entertainment value of the hearing held years ago to decide on the original indoor smoking ban. That evening included testimony from Hooters girls, and the legendary "Nobody forces me to go to the Apollo" speech.