Howard Co. sues restaurant, alleges smoking-law violations Clyde's fails to comply with new statute, suit says

February 27, 1997|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF Sun Staff Writer Erin Texeira contributed to this article.

Howard County yesterday sued Clyde's restaurant -- alleging the Columbia landmark essentially flouts the state's toughest anti-smoking law.

According to the 10-count lawsuit filed in county Circuit Court, the restaurant's management allows patrons to smoke in areas that are not sealed off from other customers.

The county is seeking a temporary injunction that would force Clyde's to ban all smoking until the restaurant seals off and ventilates a smoking area.

"We have a law on the books," said County Administrator Raquel Sanudo. "We need to move forward."

The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, is considered among the strictest on the East Coast. County officials say they expect Clyde's to respond by asking the court to throw out the law.

"The war is going to be fought on the validity of the issue, not what they're doing" specifically, said F. Todd Taylor, senior assistant county solicitor.

Clyde's manager, Anthony Moynaugh, declined yesterday to comment on the lawsuit. But the restaurant's attorney, Bruce Bereano, said the restaurant has done nothing wrong.

"They are in compliance with the law, as it has been interpreted," Bereano said.

Howard's new law is intended to prohibit smoking in restaurants, except in sealed-off, separately ventilated rooms.

Most of the county's 300 restaurants have eliminated smoking, but about a dozen have spent thousands of dollars outfitting separate bar rooms for smoking.

But Clyde's has not sealed off its smoking area. One of the restaurant's hostesses yesterday could be overheard asking patrons if they wanted to sit in non-smoking or smoking sections -- the smoking section being at or near the bar.

According to the lawsuit, Howard County police officers inspected Clyde's six times in January, and each time "they observed patrons smoking at the bar."

The six inspections led to 30 alleged violations by the bar or its manager, Moynaugh, cited in yesterday's lawsuit.

Each violation carries a fine of up to $250.

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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