MARTINSBURG, W.Va. —  The Berkeley County Board of Health will decide Tuesday whether or not to adopt stricter indoor air regulations. It’s a controversial decision.

“It’s been a mixed reaction. We’re received over 150 e-mails and letters in the mail,” according to Health Department Administrator Bill Kearns. “The majority are in favor of the ordinance. (There’s been) lots of recommendations for some changes to the ordinance. A good many also recommended we keep the ordinance the way it is right now.”

The board could implement a total smoking ban, make changes to the proposal or table it altogether.

Currently there are 650 permitted businesses within Berkeley County. Only 84 of those have chosen to allow smoking in their establishments. Butch Pennington owns three business in Berkeley County, the Palace Lounge, Penn Bar and Grill and the Big Apple Lounge. All of them are smoker friendly.

The bar owner said he’s concern about his bottom line if a 100 percent indoor smoking ban is put into place.

“I think it’s going to be a terrible thing for business simply because our customers with us now will migrate to Charles Town and in particular the Charles Town Races and Slots,” said Pennington.

His three locations are about 8-10 miles away from the casino. Pennington said he’s done some research into counties that have gone smoke-free. In Kanawha County, Mardi Gras Casino lost 32 percent of its business in 2008. Mineral County implemented a 100 percent indoor smoking ban in January. A Budweiser distributor, according to Pennington, told him his first quarter numbers were down 24 percent. The owner of the Blue Diamond in Mineral County said his revenue is down 28 percent. Pennington stressed his businesses can’t take that kind of hit.

“Our employees are afraid for their jobs and rightfully so. If I have a 30 percent reduction in business, somebody may be laid off or I may have to eliminate jobs,” explained Pennington.

Kearns said the Board of Health has a very challenging decision to make because they will take several factors into consideration.

“Our main concern is protecting public health. But certainly the decisions of the board are not to put anyone out of business,” according to Kearns.

The board has three choices. It could adopt a 100 percent clean indoor air policy, board members could make changes to the proposed regulations or they could table the issue and take no action.

Currently 24 West Virginia counties have comprehensive indoor smoking regulations. Pennington stressed he wouldn’t be as opposed to Berkeley County joining the ranks if it didn’t run off his customers.

“If this thing was statewide it might be a little more palatable.”

The five-member board of health will meet at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

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  • elj

    lets see how much of a hit Berkeley county takes in loss business Jefferson county will love our money and bar owners are already planning the cost of closing their bars in Berkeley county

  • Jmc

    Private vs Public... Yes. No smoking in public areas. Understood. But, a private club is just that...! A "private club". And if the private owners of that "private club" allow smoking in their "private club"... So be it. Don't join their "private club". The patrons that do choose to join know the risk they are taking. No one is being forced to join. Simply go to an establishment that doesn't allow smoking. Everyone gets to make a choice... So, everyone should be happy..? Right..? Or does that make to much sense..?

  • Reid

    As more cities and towns continue to ban smoking, now is the perfect time to switch to a relatively cleaner and healthier way to intake nicotine: vaping. For more info and easy purchases of e-cigs and vapes, go to

    • Jmc

      Sorry Reid... But, Those have been banned in Berkeley County too..? Go figure..!

  • Tim

    All of these non smokers saying, "why not just walk outside?" Well why don't you just walk outside while someone is smoking near enough to you for you to be effected by it? If it's good enough for the goose it's good enough for the gander. Assuming all of the smokers did walk outside for their cigarettes the smoke would still come in from patrons frequently entering, and exiting the building, not to mention you'd have to walk through the dense pack of smokers to enter or exit the building. You'd leave hit the same smell on your clothes, and the same health risks. No one is forcing you to go to a facility that allows smoking. Options are available.

  • flossrancher

    I've been to California and to Ireland, and can report that they both still have people drinking in bars after banning cigarettes. We just go outside, smoke, then go back in and drink some more.

    • Shadow

      I wish you would proceed "California" with "The Socialist State of". It is more in keeping with their laws. Ireland, I am unaware of their situation.

  • David

    These people have NO constitutional authority to make laws! Period.

    Berkeley countians should vote out every official who supports these nazis and I don't even smoke !

  • Shadow

    Where do we find these clowns that think they can vote to cancel the rights of private business owners? It is very simple, if you don't like the atmosphere of a place, don't go. That is what I do for places with loud music. However, I don't try to stop the owners from playing their music. Thinking again, I think that would be a good ordnance for those of us with ears.

    • zero tolerance

      I enjoy entering places where I don't come out smelling like an ash tray.

      • Shadow

        That is your right and I am glad you exercise it. But, since you exercise your right, I hope you recognize the rights of others to do as they please.

        • Jim

          I think you miss the point. Bars and other businesses have lots of regulations they have to follow. For example. Temperatures of water to wash and sanitize dishes, Temperatures of coolers to keep food and beverages safe, Temperatures of cooked foods to make sure they are not undercooked. And they're hundreds of more Health Department rules businesses have to follow to protect the health of its citizens. Since SHS is poisonous they have no choice but to protect the public from it. What you do in your own home does not mean you always get to do it in public.

        • zero tolerance

          Just please do it outside. I don't think that is too much to ask of anyone.

          • Jim

            The sad thing is smokers do not care who they expose their toxins to. They don't care that the smoke from their cig not only goes into their lungs but the lungs of others. They want their fix and don't care about anyone else.

          • Shadow

            You miss the point. The bar is private property, it is not the property of the State nor its customers. Do you want the State to control what goes on in your bedroom? I doubt it and it is no different that the bar that allows smoking. If you don't like it, find another place. If you like the place that doesn't allow smoking at the command of the owner, go outside, but the State should keep their nose out of it.... Particularly, by a group of unelected clowns who apparently never read and understood the Constitution. A Pox on them.

      • Jephre


        The businesses cited in the article may have seen some decline initially, but Kanawha County proved that the loss was temporary and was eventually recovered with some new customers added as well.