Natchez hotel owners feel left out of smoking debate

Published 11:47 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2009

NATCHEZ — The owners of independent hotels in Natchez said they feel they’ve been left out.

When the Natchez Chamber of Commerce Tourism Council brought tourism leaders and business owners together Monday to discuss a smoking ordinance, these hotel owners thought they weren’t invited.

“Every meeting is open to the public, even if you’re not in the tourism industry,” Tourism Council Chairman Baxter Lee said.

Email newsletter signup

The misunderstanding still happened, however, and the hotel owners wanted their voices to be heard.

Andy Patel, owner of the Red Carpet Inn, said a smoking ordinance would be detrimental.

“What does the city want to do? Do they want to destroy our business?” he asked.

Andy Patel said 80 percent of his customers are smokers.

Mike Patel, owner of the Terrace Motel, said he wouldn’t mind if restaurants went non-smoking.

He said people would understand if they had to eat their meal and then go outside to smoke — they only spend maybe two hours in a restaurant.

But hotels are stayed in for days.

“Restaurants are a different story,” he said.

Andy Patel said if the city is going to go smoke free, then it needs to be completely across the board.

“Ban the whole town,” he said. “Don’t let gas stations sell cigarillos or cigarettes. Then everybody loses.”

Alderman James “Ricky” Gray attended the meeting of the six hotel owners, and he said he planned on setting up a meeting in which the business owners could share their opinions.

“Your voice needs to be heard too,” Gray said. “You’ve got a voice just like everybody else.”