Last week, arguments were heard by S.C. Circuit Court Judge Deadra Jefferson in the ongoing dispute between the Sullivan’s Island Town Council and one of The Eye’s all-time favorites … Bert’s Bar.
At issue is a new town ordinance that bans smoking indoors in businesses under the aegis of the beachside municipality. The ordinance went into effect on July 20 and is the love child of Sullivan’s Island Councilman Everett Presson, a longtime, vociferous opponent of smoking in bars and restaurants.
Bert’s owner Tim Runyon decided that he was gonna fight Town Hall after the ordinance passed because he says his business is directly impacted negatively by the council’s decision to legislate morality.
Runyon is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the town from enforcing the ordinance until the legality of it can be determined.
Runyon’s attorney, Skip Martin, argued, “Sullivan’s Island has taken away a fundamental concept of our Constitution — the freedom of choice to engage in lawful activity.”
Town lawyers asserted that the municipality had the right to regulate the quality of life for indoor workplaces to minimize the effects of secondhand smoke to employees.
Okay, thought The Eye, but what if said employees puff on a smoke instead of whistling while they work?
Judge Jefferson listened to the various arguments and witnesses for about three hours before stopping the proceedings to have a pow-wow with the assembled attorneys.
She then told the lawyers to present proposed summary judgments to her, ostensibly to get the matter out of her courtroom and make it someone else’s problem.
Jefferson should rule in about two weeks and there’s no doubt that both parties will be pleased simultaneously.
Afterward, Jefferson said, “I certainly understand that ultimately this is going to be decided by the Supreme Court.”
There’s a couple of issues going on here besides the simple matter of smoking in public houses.
Ever since Hurricane Hugo, when the rest of the world found out about our little piece of paradise, outsiders have come to the coast to enjoy what they perceive as the Lowcountry’s quality of life.
Unfortunately, most of them don’t seem interested in becoming part of the community and instead they try to disengage themselves by employing smokescreen issues like the smoking ordinance or the noise ordinance or the dogs-on-the-beach ordinance, ad nauseam.
It’s the “I live here, but I’m not of here” defense, because these poor little racist Southerners don’t know what’s good for them.
It got worse when some of the locals allowed themselves to be co-opted by the new money and lose sight of the character of the area.
The Eye spent a recent Saturday night at Bert’s to hear the old-school local favorites The Killer Whales. While all in The Eye’s party enjoyed the show, most lamented that Bert’s wasn’t the dumpy bar it used to be.
And then there’s the zealots … why do antismoking advocates like Presson and his ilk use their money and influence to push around a little guy like Runyon, whose “crime” is to allow people to use a legal product in his place of business?
Hey Everett, you got a problem with smoking, then go after the tobacco industry and its toadies in the U.S. Congress and quit trying to turn the Lowcountry into Disney World so you can sell more condominiums.
While you’re at it, tell all your rich white friends to buy their own smokes instead of coming outside to “bum and slum” with the masses they refuse to acknowledge indoors.
Who knew it would come to this … The Eye’s hometown caught up in the culture war vortex. Freakin’ hurricanes!
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.