2009 was all about the “NO,” with several surprising bans taking shape, both in Raleigh and across the state. Restrictions were enacted (and in one instance, later lifted) that affect citizens in their vehicles, at restaurants and bars, and even in parades. In 2009 we saw how quickly the slogan “no, we can’t” became more of a reality than “yes, we can.”
Back in May, Governor Purdue kicked off the summer by signing a ban on indoor smoking in the state of North Carolina, surprising many, as NC is the largest producer of tobacco in the nation. The ban, which will officially go into effect just after everyone’s New Year’s hangover subsides, prohibits smoking in public establishments such as restaurants and bars, but excludes cigar bars and private clubs.
Public smoking bans are slowly becoming the norm, with 29 states currently having such laws in effect. However, considering the massive power tobacco lobbyists wield in NC, many state residents remained convinced until this summer that a ban would never be supported in our state. This legislation, in conjunction with the vice taxes that have also been passed over the past year, has made it increasingly difficult for smokers. Those who indulge will be able to light up and enjoy a drink at their favorite bar for the last time on January 1st, 2010.
And then, the back and forth: Hey Smokers! and Smoky Bars Are Not That Gross, You’re Just Really Whiny
In August of this year, we experienced the whole banned dog fiasco. New Raleigh published an article detailing how Wake County food safety officials had begun informing local restaurants that dogs were prohibited from outdoor eating areas and restaurant patios. Citing their interpretation of a state regulation, officials suggested that pooches were not only not allowed in food prep and service areas, but also from dining areas, both indoors and outside.
The technicality of the regulation’s wording set off a controversy, and while there was some support for the decision, many dog fans across the area reacted rabidly, rallying against the interpretation. After several days of media coverage and a review of the state statutes, Wake County attorney announced that restaurants would be allowed to make their own calls on the issue, setting many local pet fans at ease. Due to the vagueness of the wording in the statutes though, this issue could very well be revisited at some point in the future.
State legislators also announced this past summer that a ban on texting while driving would go into effect in North Carolina beginning December 1st. This made NC one of 19 states, along with the District of Columbia, that has such a law on the books, though skeptics contended its effectiveness. The penalty for this transgression is a mere $100, and it doesn’t prevent drivers from doing any number of things – messing with an mp3 player, talking on a phone, browsing the internet, or knitting, to name a few – that would distract them from the wheel. Additionally, the ban does not apply to drivers who are in a parked or stopped vehicle, nor does it ever apply to law enforcement officers or emergency personnel. Time will tell if the ban has any effect on accident rates, but I know I’ve seen my share of texting drivers throughout the month of December, so thus far it hasn’t seemed much of a deterrent.
And, with a good old-fashioned blow to our holiday spirit, the Greater Raleigh Merchant’s Association decided to cap off the year by banning Mrs. Claus from this year’s Raleigh Christmas Parade. Apparently there’s only room for one Santa suit in this town, as the association based this decision on the fear that children would confuse Mr. And Mrs. Claus because they wore similar costumes. Many were left to wonder if that was a good enough reason. Parade officials took the “bah humbug” attitude a step further by discouraging parade attendees from wearing their own Santa hats. Happy holidays!
Looking forward to 2010, we at New Raleigh are left to wonder if the trend of bans that began in 2009 will continue or subside, and like our readers, we’re also curious to see the effects of these new laws. But for now, take your dog to your favorite restaurant and smoke away…just be sure not to wear your Santa hat or text on your way there.