By Karen Daniels
Larry Forehand, the owner of several Casa Olé restaurants, first contacted Mayor Scarcella and City Council about a year ago asking them to consider passing a smoking ordinance for the City of Stafford. He didn’t like the smoky atmosphere for families who dined at his restaurant and wanted a level playing field for all restaurants in the area. The Mayor told him they could put it on the agenda and see if it would pass. Having participated in politics throughout his life, Mr. Forehand understands that these things take time, but decided not to wait. On August 15, Casa Olé, located at 12203 Murphy Road, took it upon itself to go smoke free.
“Smoking customers are just as important to us as our non-smoking customers,” Forehand said. “I made the decision to go smoke free because we are a family restaurant and people bring babies and small children here. I also did it for the health of my employees.” He has no problem with compromise and is currently setting up tables, chairs, and a shaded area for smoking customers who wish to go outside and smoke. In the future, if the zoning ordinance will allow it, Stafford’s Casa Olé has plans to build a patio on the side of the building to allow for food service outside.
Mayor Scarcella had this to say. “It is commendable that Casa Olé has voluntarily chosen to prohibit smoking in their establishment. I applaud them and encourage other businesses in Stafford to consider following their lead. Unfortunately, many are anxious to vilify our business community for allowing smoking–thus biting the very hands that feed this city so well and have done so for so long.”
The good news is there has been no loss of revenue so far. In this restaurant group that Casa Olé is a part of and Larry Forehand is the founder of, has 68 restaurants in 41 cities throughout three states. Out of all of these restaurants, even though smoking is allowed in some by the cities, only two locations are left that allow smoking. By the end of the year they will also go smoke free.