Indoor smoking banned in stateTo commemorate Pennsylvania's last day of indoor smoking, the Square Bar, on East Chestnut Street, held a "smoke-off."

According to owner Leonard Bartelmo, it was a chance for people to say goodbye to indoor inhaling any way they pleased.

"I bought four or five cartons of cigarettes and a bunch of ashtrays to give out," Bartelmo said. "The customers make their own party."

At 7:30 p.m., that party involved chatting, drinking and staring pensively through hazy air. While most of the smokers said they opposed the ban, few were as enraged as West Chester cigarette enthusiast Jim Devenney.

"It's so stupid," he said. "If everyone quit smoking, do you know how much our taxes would go up? So many of our taxes are funded by cigarette sales. We'd quit, and everyone would bitch and want us to keep smoking."

Devenny said he planned to stay out all night to enjoy his last indoor puffs.

"Will I call out of work tomorrow?" he said. "Maybe. It's just not right."

Patrick Love, also of West Chester, said that although he believes bars should make their own decisions regarding smoking, he is not particularly bothered by the ban.

"You know what I'll do," he said as he exhaled a puff of smoke. "I won't have a cigarette. I've quit many times. I quit six years ago."

Laura Hinderliter, of West Chester, said the ban will make it easier for her to give up cigarettes.

"I was going to quit anyway, but it's nice to know you can go out and know you won't have the temptation right in front of you," she said.

The smoking ban was enacted, in part, to protect bartenders from exposure to second-hand smoke. And Melissa Volk, a bartender at the Square Bar, is exactly the type who will benefit from the ban.

"I'm so happy they're stopping smoking in bars," said Volk, who quit cigarettes three years ago and attributes her asthma to years of smoking.

She said the ban will probably bring in more customers. "Now a lot of people come in, wave their hands in front of their faces, and walk out," she said. "There's too much smoke."

Bartelmo, the owner, said that although he doesn't like the state telling him how to run his business, it may be time to go smoke-free.

"That's why I'm not applying for the exemption," he said. "And it'll save us money. Right now we have to paint every two years, replace the tiles every two years, because of the smoke. The TV's the same way. It gets into everything - not just your lungs."

Update on hot air balloon accident

Air Ventures, the owner of the hot-air balloon involved in a recent fatal accident, has issued a statement regarding the tragedy.

"First and foremost, Air Ventures wants the public to know our thoughts and prayers go out to the passengers and families involved in this tragic accident," said Debbie Harding, chief pilot and owner of the company. "We stand behind our experienced pilots and capabilities of our crew and state-of-the-art balloon equipment. We are all deeply saddened by this tragic accident."

Air Ventures plans to "cooperate fully with the appropriate agencies to determine the exact cause of this tragic accident," Harding said. "But most of all, our beloved friend and pilot, Earl MacPherson, will be sorely missed. Our only consolation is that he died a hero."

About 6:37 p.m. Sept. 7, the Chester County radio room dispatched West Vincent police and Kimberton fire personnel after receiving 911 calls for a balloon on fire in the 1800 block of Kimberton Road, according to West Vincent Police Chief Michael Swininger.

The balloon landed in a large, grassy field in a rural residential area. Nearby homeowners aided the victims until medical help arrived.

Upon arrival, police found the balloon basket engulfed in flames. Air Ventures employees, who were following the balloon in a chase car, tried in vain to extinguish the fire, police said.

Seven passengers were taken to area hospitals either by helicopter or by ambulance, authorities said. All passengers except for John Conboy III, 61, of Spring City, have been released from the hospitals, according to Swininger.

"I've talked to the other passengers and they seem to be doing OK," Swininger said.

MacPherson, 67, of Pennsville, N.J., was unable to exit the balloon basket and died, according to authorities.

His wife, Darcy, said he enjoyed all types of flying. "Ballooning ended up being his all-time favorite," she said. MacPherson had flown balloons for the past 20 years and was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly planes and balloons, according to his wife.

In addition, he was a FAA-certified ground instructor and aided with safety seminars, she said.

Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board began an investigation with the assistance of the FAA.

Air Safety Investigator Shawn D. Etcher said a preliminary report is expected to be completed within two weeks. Over the next six months to a year, authorities will analyze the preliminary report then produce a factual report. Lastly, a five-member board will look at the facts and write a probable-cause report, according to Etcher.

In Pennsylvania, only two hot-air balloon accidents occurred during the past five years, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The most recent occurred in May 2007 in New Holland. The other took place in August 2004 in Dover. Neither accident was fatal.

The Note opens doors for first time

The Note, West Chester's newest entertainment venue, opened its doors for the first time over the weekend.

The much-anticipated and talked-about club is owned by MTV celebrity Brandon "Bam" Margera and Don Moore, former owner of Rex's Bar.

Dramatic exposed brick and beams, a red-velvet stage backdrop and wooden pieces brought from churches in Coatesville and New Orleans helped create a theatrical impact for the business. The bar's decor was created partly by set designers who have worked with Margera.

The Note opened its doors Saturday night to a packed house and occasional lines out the door.

"We weren't caught by surprise," said Justin Childers, Moore's assistant general manager. "We knew we were going to be busy, but it was craziness. It went very well."

The bar opened at 7 p.m. for friends and family and to the public at 10 p.m.

First pitched two years ago, The Note plans to host local bands and more famous groups, as well as to showcase independent films, comedians, WXPN shows and more.

Part of those two years was spent negotiating with the community; some local committees petitioned against the bar.

Childers summed up the municipal approvals as "a long process." "The borough had concerns about putting a bar in this section of town," Childers said. "We just had to show them we're serious about being a performance venue."

The first of these performers were Eli "Paperboy" Reed and The True Loves, which Childers described as "very - Otis Redding mixed with the Blues Brothers."

Upcoming guests include The Blue Method and Dialects on Sept. 19, Steppin Razors on Oct. 10, Push Play on Oct. 12 and Thrice on Oct. 15.

Unlike Rex's Bar, The Note will accept credit cards and feature a full menu with typical bar fare, including wings, onion petals and grilled quesadillas, and a dinner menu, featuring classic American fare.

"We went with the classic bar menu but tried to keep it higher-end," said Childers.

The menu also boasts "all desserts homemade by April Margera," Bam's mother. The Note is a nonsmoking establishment.

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