Restaurateurs in the US city of Atlanta have reacted with anger and bewilderment to a council rule aimed at persuading them to ban smoking.
The rule, approved by Atlanta City Council, offers restaurants a three-year, 20% discount on annual business licence fees if they agree to a ban.
Aimie Moran, events organiser at the city's Fratelli di Napoli restaurant, dismissed the concept.
She said: "Around 40% of our customers are smokers. I cannot imagine us ever banning this group of people."
Fred Fejeune, manager of the 175-seat Ruth's Chris Steak House, endorsed her view. "This is something we certainly would not be willing to go along with for fear of alienating a proportion of our customers," he said.
Karen Wantuck, marketing director of the 600-seat Anthony's, said her restaurant would, at best, make a saving of around $1,000 (£600) a year if it signed up for the discount.
She said: "We, and all the Atlanta restaurants I know, are in the dark about it. The council has not approached us."
Ralph Bilbrey, director of membership for the 2,400-member Georgian Hospitality & Travel Association, added: "This is an economic incentive to encourage more restaurants to become non-smoking. We are not anticipating everyone will join."
An estimated one third of the 1,914 restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia, already operate non-smoking policies.
by Lucia Cockcroft
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 19-25 October 2000