The Hendersonville Elks Lodge banned smoking at its indoors facilities on Tuesday by an overwhelmingly vote of 82-7.
The local lodge, known for its Christmas donations to needy families, service to youth and its L-shaped pool, is a tradition-rich club that had stubbornly allowed smoking indoors at a time when every restaurant in the state and most indoor public spaces banned it. The meeting of Lodge No. 1616 drew 96 members, a far larger crowd than usual, for the vote on whether to ban smoking in the lodge, which contains a bar, dining room and bingo hall.
Lodge members who attended Tuesday night voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bylaw change that bans smoking inside. The club will still allow smoking on an upstairs deck outside the lounge and on the pool deck.
The 75-year-old Elks Lodge has 1,178 members — up to 10 times more than the town's bigger lunchtime civic clubs.
Unlike those clubs, the Elks Lodge has a pool, lounge and restaurant. Scott Larned, manager of the lounge and food services for the club, told the members that business at the restaurant had been dropping since 2008 and would likely continue to decline unless the lodge offered a smoke-free dining experience.
Since the General Assembly outlawed smoking in restaurants, the Elks Lodge "is one of the only places in North Carolina smokers can go," one Elk said. "Where else are they going to go?"
Mark Roloff, a past Exalted Ruler of the lodge, said the club leadership had been working on the smoking issue for 2½ years, trying to balance the interests of smokers and nonsmokers.
"Most of the smokers tell us 'I don't smoke in my house,'" he said. "Ladies and gentleman, this is your house."
Elks who favored the smoking ban applauded.