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Up in smoke, kinda and kinda not...

By PAT BROWN,

Magee just had the ribbon cutting for our newest business--The Perfect Blend.  It was to be a cigar bar and coffee bar just off Main Avenue.

  The Magee Chamber of Commerce held a celebratory ribbon cutting on Thursday.  By Thursday afternoon, the business’s plans were snuffed out.
  My wife Nancy called for me to get some details from our friends Nona and Jean-Philippe Cook, the owners.  I was unable to make contact Thursday so I went by city hall and spoke with the mayor and folks with the city.  
   Mayor Dale Berry brought in members of the staff who were familiar with what had transpired, the mayor, City Clerk Lane Yearby, Zoning Administrator David Dunn, and Joe Worrell, city building inspector.  Berry said any actions from the city were on hold until city attorney Bruce Smith returned from bear hunting.  
  Berry provided a copy of the city ordinance prohibiting smoking in businesses  which the city had adopted in November of 2013.  Part of the reason they did so was to qualify for a $25,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield.  They are now working on a $50,000 grant.
  Cook said he was hopeful all along that he would be able to open the smoking lounge because he said Worrell had indicated to him that he may be exempt from the non-smoking ordinance by being a private club.  He said the city fire marshal had given him some recommendation during inspections and he had met all of those.  
  Cook was also given a copy of the city ordinance which prohibits smoking on the premises of commercial establishments that are public or private.  Plans were to open only to club members for a membership fee of $30 per month.  
   So Perfect Blend had their ribbon cutting on Thursday.  After the event, a city police officer brought another copy of the ordinance to Nona Cook.  This put a hold on the opening of Perfect Blend coffee bar and smoke shop.  
However, by Saturday they were open to sell cigars, and it is a pretty swanky place to hang out and watch football on the big screen televisions.  But as of now those cigars can’t be smoked on the premises.  This creates another issue.  
  Cook and his wife also planned to open a restaurant in the front of the building.  The issues they are having now with what they thought would be okay has given them having second thoughts about having a restaurant in downtown Magee.
    They are concerned that they may experience the same problem getting city permits that occurred with Jose’s Restaurant.  The cost of  required improvements added to that facility was through the roof, as was  the amount of time it took to comply with the codes and requirements. Some say these may or may not have been required by law.   
Some options could be considered for the Cooks’ planned Main Avenue cigar bar.  The city could amend the existing law to allow for smoking in private clubs.  The ordinances could be reconsidered.  Cook indicated that their restaurant plans may be on hold until some decisions are made.  He said just the equipment for the restaurant costs over $100,000 and they could not afford to have that tied up if they were going to have problems getting open.  
    We would caution that in the future city leaders carefully analyze ordinances before they vote to adopt them.  We are not sure that is always being done now.  
   A case in point is the new ordinance on requirements for lawn care businesses.  The city was about to adopt requirements for anyone conducting a lawn care business, which included hedge trimming, to get a city permit.  
  If this is what they want, I suppose that is fine, but  the guy who helps me in my yard would be in a bind if he had to purchase liability insurance and pay a permit fee first.   
   I suppose kids don’t cut the neighbors’ grass for extra money like they used to, but the new ordinance could have put them out of business, too, if they added hedge trimming to their services.