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Smoking ban snuffing Greenery profits

Located on 42nd Street, the Greenery Pub has recently become the center of a USF area controversy as it looks to expand.

Food sales at the local bar have surpassed the 10 percent gross revenue mark, and under the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act these sales disqualify the Greenery from the “stand-alone bar” status it once enjoyed. Since the Greenery is now classified as a non-exempt, enclosed, indoor workplace, it is unlawful to smoke inside.

The Greenery has seen a 30 to 40 percent drop in sales since the smoking ban and has been trying to find a way to combat the losses.

Fadi Achkouti, owner of the pub, planned to build a deck outside to accommodate smokers since smoking inside unlawful. This expansion was opposed by community groups and was defeated at a Hillsborough County Commissioners meeting held in May.

Achkouti ran into opposition from the Sweetwater Oaks area board, which voiced concerns about the substantial growth in the 42nd Street area.

Gregory Richkind, a resident of the area and member of board expressed concerns about unchecked growth in such a small area.

Citing increased traffic and concern for the area’s rising family population, he stated community residents are mainly concerned with the danger inherent in the booming population and the potential for noise pollution. He went on to say that the hearing was about a complete rezoning of the property rather than just an application to build a deck. He is worried that this rezoning could then be used to build a strip mall that the roads in the area could not safely support.

Achkouti replied to these concerns by saying, “I am not causing the traffic on 42nd street. They claim that at 5 o’clock or 7 o’clock in the morning, or 6 o’clock at night, the traffic is clogged by the Greenery. I told them, ‘If business was this good, I wouldn’t be asking for this (rezoning).'”

Achkouti feels he has been very flexible in seeking the rezoning by compromising with community members.

“I’m always willing to work with anybody,” Achkouti said. “We agreed that we wouldn’t do a second phase, but they still didn’t support us in doing the patio. I try to work with all of my neighbors, but they straight out called me a liar.”

The commissioners’ decision has left Achtouki fresh out of ideas and still looking for a new way to rebound from the losses caused by the smoking ban.

Opened in 1976 as the Bullpen and renamed a year later, the Greenery Pub has become a USF campus tradition. It is the proximity to campus and the daily specials that lure international studies senior Sean Kelly, who feels safer as a patron of a bar within walking distance.

“Since I live here, it is a safe distance to come to the Greenery and walk home without having to worry about drinking and driving,” Kelly said.

Kathy Habdas, head of the Sweetwater Oaks area board, which spearheaded the opposition to the rezoning, could not be reached despite repeated attempts.