- A restaurant in North Carolina shut down after claiming that smoke from a cigar bar next door caused health issues.
- Staff and customers had experienced headaches and sinus and eye irritation from the smoke, its owner said.
- The restaurant had previously sued the cigar bar and the shopping center’s owners.
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A restaurant in a North Carolina shopping center closed down after claiming that smoke from the new cigar bar next door had given its customers and staff headaches and eye irritation.
Coronato Pizza in Carrboro, North Carolina, closed its dining room in February. Two months later, it filed a lawsuit against the owner of Oasis Cigar Lounge as well as its landlord, local news site WRAL first reported.
In the lawsuit, viewed by Insider, Teddy Diggs, the chef and owner of Coronato Pizza, claimed that after Oasis Cigar Lounge opened in August 2022, “cigar smoke began migrating” to his restaurant.
Diggs claimed that the smoke resulted in himself, his wife, staff, and diners experiencing headaches alongside sinus and eye irritation.
The problems were so bad that the restaurant had to close early on two days in August 2022, Diggs said in the suit.
Diggs claimed that he reported the issues to the bar’s owners and to the building management multiple times, but they failed to take effective action.
Diggs said that he hired a secondhand-smoke consultant, whose report has been viewed by Insider, to do an air-quality test in January 2023. The consultant found that there was a “significant leak of cigar smoke” and that the air pollution exposed Coronato staff and diners to “significantly unhealthy air quality from secondhand smoke that poses both an acute and chronic hazard to their physical and mental health.”
The nicotine levels measured at Coronato were “comparable to what has been measured in the homes of smokers,” the consultant told WRAL.
Diggs said in an Instagram post that he had closed the restaurant’s dining room in February because the test results made him feel “that it was unacceptable for us to continue to operate our business as usual.”
“We believe that closing our dining room allows us to protect the public from dangerous SHS toxins, while also allowing us to manage the restaurant in a way that mitigates the negative health risks for those of us who are working in the space,” he continued.
He noted, however, that by operating takeout-only, the restaurant was experiencing the “same uncertainty that we felt during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Diggs filed his lawsuit against the cigar bar and the landlord in April.
The Oasis Cigar Club told WRAL that month that it had “always sought to be good neighbors” and had made extensive and expensive investments aiming to mitigate the smoke in its space, including industrial-strength air purification units.
The owner of the shopping center told Insider that after being approached by Coronato Pizza it “immediately took significant steps to remedy the concerns,” including installing commercial-grade air cleaners, carbon filters, and an ozone generator.
Diggs claimed in the lawsuit that the shopping center provided him with air purifiers that “did nothing to prevent the migration of cigar smoke.”
Abigael Newton, a health consultant at the North Carolina Department of Health, said in a report viewed by Insider that when she entered the restaurant this August to carry out a survey, “the distinct odor of cigar smoke was identified.”
In mid-September, Diggs announced that the restaurant would be closing for good after trying to navigate “significant health and safety concerns.” It closed a month later.
Closing the dining room “was devastating to our business,” Diggs told Insider. “Coronato was built to be a dine-in restaurant that offers the experience of the modern Roman pizzeria dining experience, which is a full service multi-course dinner service … We made every effort to stay in business but we finally had reached a point of no return.”
Diggs said that he had tried to resolve the issue “as tenant and neighbors first” before filing the lawsuit. Other tenants in the building similarly had issues with secondhand smoke from the cigar lounge, he claimed.
Oasis Cigar Lounge, meanwhile, left its premises in the shopping center in early October, it told The Local Reporter. The lounge’s media representative told the publication that Coronato Pizza had “bullied” the Oasis by filing the lawsuit.
“The real reason why we are leaving is because we are a predominantly Black-owned business and we haven’t been treated well by our neighbors,” the representative said, adding that “the damage has been done and they won’t stay where they are not wanted.”
Diggs denied bullying and told Insider that he’d had little contact with Oasis outside asking for assistance regarding the smoke issues.
“I am not sure what they could be referring to as bullying,” he said.
“We simply did not want cigar smoke and toxins in our business.”
Oasis Cigar Lounge did not respond to numerous requests for comment from Insider.