Smoke in the air again

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John Froehling, head trustee at the Rod and Gun Club in Laconia, said the private social club attracted many members alienated by other area clubs that banned smoking. A legislative proposal to repeal a decade-old prohibition on smoking in public places which are privately owned, such as restaurants, could be a boon to restaurant owners who target smokers, he said. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

 Cool reception: Restaurants balk at bill to undo smoking ban

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Restaurants could thrive if lawmakers rolled back the clock and allowed smoking in private businesses, according to advocates for a bill that would undo smoking bans in New Hampshire.

Others — including the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association — argue that times have changed and there's no going back to the days of indoor smoking, without inflicting a host of thorny problems, particularly on restaurant owners.

House Bill 279 would repeal a decade-old prohibition on smoking in public places which are privately owned, including restaurants, grocery stores and cocktail lounges. The bill would give discretion for business owners to maintain a ban. New Hampshire Rep. Robert Hull, R-Grafton, who introduced the bill, has argued that business owners, not the state, should decide what's best for customers and their businesses.

HB279 had a subcommittee work session on Tuesday, Feb. 7, and it was scheduled for an executive session — executive sessions typically are legislative meetings where committees take final votes on bills — on Wednesday, Feb. 8, but legislative staff reported that the bill needs more subcommittee work so the executive session has been postponed. A schedule for further committee review will be posted at http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committeedetails.aspx?code=H43.

The bill is not due out of the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee until March 2, staff reported.

The health effects of HB279 have been debated — the American Cancer Society and others testified against the bill on that basis. But the economics of the legislation remain a point of speculation.

Peter Karagianis, owner of Happy Jack's Cigar, Pipe and Tobacco Shop in Laconia, said cigar smoking has "plateaued at a high point" and pipe smoking is enjoying renewed popularity, and he voiced sympathy for customers who want to indulge in a cigar or pipe.

"Maybe there's a happy medium. Not a free-for-all where you can smoke anywhere, but if you own a business and you wish to have that smoking, it's up to the individual landowner and business owner to decide," he said.

"I think it would be a good thing if people had those rights back as well as those people who want to smoke aren't treated like pariahs," Karagianis said.

John Froehling, head trustee at the Rod and Gun Club in Laconia, a private social club with about 400 members, said restaurants could prosper if they were allowed to reinstate indoor smoking. Private social clubs like the Rod and Gun Club are treated differently under state law and permitted to establish smoking areas for paying members.

When other social clubs halted indoor smoking, "they all lost a lot of business, and we got a lot of their business here," Froehling said.

"They lose a lot of business, and a lot of them are starting to think now, 'Maybe we should bring back smoking,'" he said.

If HB279 passed, restaurants could tap into that same unserved demographic of customers — frustrated smokers, he said.

"If they open up the restaurants, it will be the same thing, some restaurants are going to do it, some restaurants aren't. It's good for business for them. There are still a lot of people out that are smoking, and they have rights, too," Froehling said. "I hope it passes for them. But it's also going to be hit and miss. I think the ones with the smoking are going to do more business."

Six smoke-eaters at the Rod and Gun Club aim to eliminate the haze that once permeated businesses prior to bans on indoor smoking.

At the Rod and Gun Club, the bar section is open to smoking, but the rental area is off limits to smoking.

Patrons who smoke complain that the club is the only place they're welcome, Froehling said.

"All day long, we get a lot of that," he said. "We're always packed here. They know they can come here and smoke."

Mike Somers, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association, said the association is opposed to the legislation. "We're not fans of it. I think it's a case of once upon a time. ..."

The "good old days" for smokers can't easily be restored, Somers said. "We're not sure of where the liability would stand for employees. That creates a whole bunch of questions, what does it do for insurance premiums, liability," particularly for a restaurant owner whose employees became sick from breathing cigarette smoke.

Consumers are used to nonsmoking environments, he added.

"I think the vast majority of folks are pretty happy with the status quo," Somers said.

Brett Marquis, general manager at Fratello's Italian Grille in Laconia, said he couldn't envision the restaurant ever reinstating indoor smoking.

"It's shocking to me. I highly doubt that it's going to pass," Marquis said of the legislation.

"We definitely wouldn't go back. We would not allow smoking. We did years ago in the lounge. It's moving backward," he said.

Somers said restaurant owners worry about a yo-yo of back-and-forth legislation.

"Frankly I think the biggest fear is if they repeal it now, then we're back in two years or four years," with another legislative proposal to reinstate the ban, he said.

It's unclear if the legislation has the votes to clear committee, but Somers said the association is paying attention.

"We've been watching it closely just to see what happens," he said.

Reaction to the bill from our readers on Facebook:

• Ann Marie Morse – Nooooo
• Marie Scott – Absolutely disgusting.
• Patty DePalma – Sucks. Please don’t
• Kelly Green Ray – Seriously! Why would anyone even think this is ok
• Crystal Bonin I’m curious about who introduced this and why. I don’t see any way of this passing into law, especially given the evidence of the effects of secondhand smoke.
• Bethany Miller –I smoke..but not inside!! Please no!!
• Christine Cabral LeBlanc – I think this is a huge step backwards in terms of public health. As a patron I can chose to avoid these places, but employees don’t have that option.
• Mike N Andrea Burke – Considering all the health conscious people these days I doubt that will pass...it’s just foolish. What would be the point of banning people to smoke in cars with kids but public buildings are ok?? (Still blowing smoke in our air no thanks) People need to keep their cancer causing chemicals to themselves
• Amy Couture Lesniak – Gross ...if they do it’s a place we won’t ever go to
• Cynthia Ferris Rose – This is just silly. Why on earth would anyone vote for this? I understand freedom of choice, but this would be ONE GIANT STEP BACKWARD.
• Christy Dolat Bartlett – I’m on the Commerce Committee hearing this bill. The aim for the “Free Stater” that brought it is to continue to reduce regulation wherever they see it! Nevermind that we are all receiving hundreds of emails running more than 99 to 1 against the bill! There is still support among the Republicans and I’m not sure how this will come out of committee. However, there are many Republicans that are horrified, so I’m hoping that reasonable minds will be stronger. The Democrats are very united opposing this bill, but we’re in the minority. Keep up the vocal opposition, please!
• Jan Wainwright – The federal government is trying to put us back 30 years, why should it surprise anyone that state government would do the same?
• Christopher Richards – Doesn’t bother me
• Laura Fitts – Please DON’T. It’s bad enough when you can smell it on someone while trying to buy groceries!

 

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House Bill 279 is not due out of the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee until March 2. For now, "No Smoking" signs like this one on a Laconia restaurant will remain commonplace. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

02 08 smoking bill 3

Happy Jack's Cigar, Pipe and Tobacco Shop in Laconia. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)

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15 years to life for drug sale

Brian Watson of Northfield sold fentanyl to Tilton man in 2015

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A former Northfield man will spend a minimum of 15 years in the New Hampshire State Prison for selling a fatal dose of fentanyl to a 21-year-old Tilton man in April 2015.

Brian Watson, 51, was sentenced to serve 20 years to life Tuesday with five years of the minimum suspended. He was also ordered to pay a $25,000 and a $6,000 penalty assessment. Watson must also pay $5,072 to the victim's mother, Judy Tilton, for her son's funeral.

"To pay the bills by selling drugs is unacceptable," said Belknap County Judge James O'Neill, who referenced 51-year-old Brian Watson's statements to police that he had lost his job and sold drugs so he could pay his bills.

"The message I intend to send today is: Enough is enough," continued O'Neill, who said that the sentence holds "severe punitive consequences" and justice demands this level of severity.

Four of Seth Tilton-Fogg's relatives gave impact statements, as did the father of one of his friends, who read a statement his son was unable to read himself.

Through her trembling voice, mother Judy Tilton told the court how she felt that "the man who killed my child" also tried to intimidate her through his stares at their various court appearances. She recounted Watson showing up at a Little League game after he first posted bail and said people asked him to leave but he refused. She spoke of his lack of remorse.

She said nothing will ever bring her "closure" except having her son back, which is impossible.

"As I was talking to him just before he died, I didn't know his death warrant, signed by Watson, was close by," she said.

She said her other son has still not come to terms with his brother's death and still doesn't trust anyone. Tilton said her other son, Scott, was unable emotionally to come to court during the trial and now just stays at home.

Tilton's husband, Jason Wright, said Seth came into his life when he was only 7 years old, and Seth's brother Scott was a few years older. He recalled them as being an inseparable pair.

"When I lost Seth, I lost half of Scott," Wright said, alluding to his other step son's inability to accept his brother's death.

One of the statements that weighed heavily on O'Neill was read into the record by the father of David Haskins, who is a junior in high school and met Tilton-Fogg when he moved into his neighborhood with his parents.

Haskins wrote that he was always shy but Tilton-Fogg took him under his wing, taught him how to bird hunt and wrote how Tilton-Fogg was his first childhood friend.

Haskins also wrote that his other favorite thing was playing baseball and that Watson had been his Little League coach.

Haskins recalled waking that morning in April and going on to Facebook "to find out my old Little League coach sold the drug that killed my first childhood friend."

Tilton-Fogg's father, Peter Fogg, and his aunt, Elizabeth Fogg, also told the court what a delight Seth was to them and how his death has caused them so much pain and anguish. They recalled how he worked with "Toller" dogs and showed them at dog shows, including Westminster.

O'Neill's sentence came after a hearing in which Tilton Detective Nathan Buffington testified that within a minute of learning his drugs had killed Tilton Fogg, Watson made arrangements for his next drug deal.

In his testimony, Buffington said that when Watson was told via text message that his drugs had killed someone, he told the sender to "tell no one" and expressed concern that his phone number was on Tilton-Fogg's phone.

Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen had asked for a 25 years to life sentence, saying that Watson's continued drug activity after he learned one of his customers had died coupled with the fact that Watson was a former Little League coach who was trusted by people in the community and that he used his 21-year-old girlfriend to find him customers made him a predator who deserved the maximum allowable by state law.

Watson's attorney, Mark Sisti, argued for an eight- to 15-year sentence and justified it by providing evidence that in similar cases, some that happened in Belknap County, his recommendation would be far more in line with those.

An eight- to 15-year sentence had been previously negotiated by a different attorney in the Belknap County Attorney's Office and Watson, but Watson chose instead to go to trial.

Sisti also cited two examples of Watson's personal bravery where he dove into the Merrimack River in 1994 to save someone's life and in 1997 when he dragged the victim of a car accident to safety.

"Did he crash and burn?" Sisti asked rhetorically. "Yes. But he is not irretrievable."

"Don't make him the exception," Sisti said.

Watson has 30 days to request a sentence review.

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Brian Watson, left, is handcuffed as his attorney, Mark Sisti, handles paperwork at an evidence hearing last Friday. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Lakeport Freighthouse Museum gives students a look at local history

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Teachers from Laconia elementary schools toured the Lakeport Freighthouse Museum Monday afternoon with an eye to incorporating much of what they saw into classes on local history, which will give their students insights into the way people lived before there was an internet and kept their food fresh in ice boxes, rather than refrigerators.
Leading the tour were Ginger (Tefft) Ryan, who grew up in Lakeport; Armand Bolduc, president of the Lakeport Community Association; and long-time Lakeport resident Brenda Moulton.
One of the display items Ryan was very familiar with was a device with hair-curling irons which her mother, Lydia Tefft, used in her Black and Silver Beauty Salon in Lakeport during the 1940s. The curlers were connected by individual cords to a power source which sent an electrical current through them which helped curl the hair. A photo from 1947 shows what the beauty salon looked like.
Ryan said her mother moved to Lakeport from Berlin in 1925 and married Harold Tefft, who ran a construction business in Lakeport. She said that there were virtually no electric refrigerators when she was growing up and that every day an ice man would deliver blocks of ice to homes in the city which had ice boxes, which would keep food cold.
“People used to hang a sign out which told the ice man how big a block you needed, 15, 25 or 50 pounds and he would cut it from a big block of ice and carry it into the house, even to upstairs apartments. They used ice tongs and carried the ice over their shoulder,” said Ryan.
She recalled that Lakeport was thriving with activity at that time and was a very active rail center with paper trains coming um from Boston that went as far north as Plymouth, delivering newspapers, and then would head back south, picking up passengers headed to southern New Hampshire or even Boston.
“There was a 8:30 a.m. train to Boston and there were also trains coming into Lakeport from the Lake Shore Railroad, which came up from Alton and the Seacoast area. There was an even a turntable where trains would get turned around,” said Ryan.
She recalled as a child seeing a circus train come to town which stopped near where Lowe’s is presently located. “They used elephants to help set up the tent and we got to watch all the action as they set up.”
Recalling her days at the Washington Street School during World War II she said that the city of Laconia was the leader in war bond sales which led to one of the Liberty ships being built for troop transport to be christened as the SS Laconia.
“It was a great time to grow up in this city,” she told the teachers.
Ryan said Lakeport once had a large passenger station which was dismantled in the 1960s and stored in pieces near the Laconia Airport in Gilford until it was moved, again in sections, in the 1990s to Kimball Castle in Gilford.
The freight depot, which was built in 1899, replacing one nearby, was used as freight depot until 1972 by the White Mountain Division of the Boston and Maine Railroad and became a glass repair shop known as Win-Door from 1976 until 1999, when it closed.
The Lakeport Community Association, which was formed in 1997 during renovations of the Elm Street bridge, leased the freight station building in 2004 to establish the museum, which now houses many artifacts and memorabilia from Lakeport’s long and colorful history.
Bolduc said that he grew up on the Bolduc Farm in Gilford but had many memories of Lakeport and recalled that his family used to pick up food scraps from the Mount Belknap Hotel, now the site of a senior housing complex, to feed pigs which were raised on the farm.
He said that he later found several pieces of Belknap Hotel china in the feeding station at the farm and was able to save them and give them yo the museum,
Bolduc encouraged the teachers to use the museum as a resource for their students.

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Jeana Mingo of Elm Street School, Ginger Ryan of the Lakeport Community Association and Ellen-Ward Hill of the Pleasant Street School stand next a display of electrical hair-curling irons which were used in the Black and Silver Beauty Salon in Lakeport in the 1940s. Teachers from Laconia elementary schools toured the Lakeport Freighthouse Museum, which houses historic memorabilia from Lakeport with the idea of incorporating that history into their classes. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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