As of Nov. 13, all food and beverage areas and the entire lobby level of the Morrison House Hotel, 116 S. Alfred St., are now smoke-free environments.
"We tested the concept three nights per week and our Sunday business grew by 50 percent. Furthermore, many clients have thanked us for the change," said Peter Greenberg, owner, Morrison House.
"Everyone at Morrison House is dedicated to the highest standards of hospitality and cuisine. To respond to the wishes of the client is the core value of customer service," he said.
When the Alexandria Health Department first introduced their "Proud To Be Smoke Free" voluntary program this past July Morrison House was not on the initial list, although they offered non-smoking areas within their dining rooms. At that time Greenberg said, "I've come to the conclusion we need to move to non-smoking. Even many smokers don't like to eat in a smoking atmosphere."
He has based his decision on the comment cards completed by hotel guests who have eaten in the dining and Grill rooms. "We have gotten far more cards stating that they really enjoyed their meal but would have enjoyed it even more if it had been non-smoking. I haven't seen any that said ‘Thanks for letting me smoke,’" Greenberg said last summer.
At the commencement of the program, more than 50 of Alexandria's 400 plus restaurants signed up to be listed as smoke free. That number has now risen to 76, according to Denise Yeager, project coordinator, Alexandria Health Department.
Although many of the original eateries were already smoke free when they signed on, nine of those that have joined since mid July switched their policy to non-smoking as a result of the program. "Our requirement is that the establishment must be smoke free both inside and outside, if they offer outdoor seating," Yeager explained.
In addition to the Morrison House, the other eight are: Cafe Marianna & Charles European, Charlie Chang's, Hanna Tokyo, Los Tios Grill, Nichols & Schiffler, Starbucks at 100 Union St., Thai Old Town, and Hoffman Eatery, according to Yeager.
FUNDED BY A GRANT from the Center for Disease Control's Tobacco Use Control Project, Alexandria's program is totally voluntary because it would require state legislation to put it into law.
Virginia's Dillon Rule limits local legislative initiatives without state sanction.
Originally, postcards explaining the benefits of the program were mailed to all restaurants throughout the city. Now a new brochure has just been completed that will be circulated citywide, according to Yeager.
Restaurants that have adopted the smoke-free policy are listed in an array of publications and display a smoke-free decal of a smiling blue and yellow dinner plate emblazoned with the slogan "Proud To Be Smoke Free."
"I am absolutely ecstatic that we changed to a non-smoking environment. It is also a reminder that a truly great hotel or restaurant has to prove itself all over again with each new guest," Greenburg said.