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Duluth Grill still believes in 'air curtain'

Although the new smoking ban passed by the Duluth City Council early Tuesday morning makes the Duluth Grill's new "air curtain" unacceptable as an alternative, owner Kay Biga still believes that the technology works.

Although the new smoking ban passed by the Duluth City Council early Tuesday morning makes the Duluth Grill's new "air curtain" unacceptable as an alternative, owner Kay Biga still believes that the technology works.
The Duluth Grill recently installed the new air filtration system that is said to not only remove smoke from the air, but keep the newly improved air from ever drifting over into the non-smoking section.
With ceiling vents blowing a wall of air into the smoking section, the air flow keeps smoke in the smoking section. Meanwhile, high-tech filters installed in the ceiling above the smoking section clean the air of about 80 percent of the pollutants.
It's a cost effective way, says Alex Nedelcoff, of Air Climate Systems, to keep the air clean. "What we're able to do is bring in minimum fresh air requirements with this technology so it's not necessary to heat and cool it," Nedelcoff said. "And in several circumstances this equipment can be paid for by those same energy costs."
However, proponents of the smoking ban in public places asserted at Monday's council meeting that an "air curtain" is insufficient. Dr. Terry Clark told the Council he had contacted a representative of Honeywell, the manufacturer, and the representative refused to make any claims about the effectiveness of the system against health hazards. "The (council) amendment to include an air curtain is based on a sniff test," he said.
However, Biga still believes in the new Enviracaire System. It cost her $2,800, which was less than she expected to have to pay. "I'm thrilled with this, because I thought it was going to be a much more expensive system," Biga said. "I didn't realize this was going to be a much more affordable thing."
Duluth Grill general manager Patrick Medlin said he noticed the difference in air quality right away. "The air quality has improved probably 100 percent," Medlin said. "It's a remarkable difference."
The air cleaning system can easily be installed in many commercial buildings that already have ducts from heating and cooling. The same ducts can handle the fresh air needs of the system, said Kent George of Air Climate Systems. "Air purification is what we do. If smoke is the pollutant, then we have the answer."
The council included an amendment to the smoking ban, that takes effect Jan. 1, which would allow exemptions to those businesses that can provide scientific proof that an "air curtain" or other technology would be as effective as the wall required under the ordinance.
Biga offered a demonstration of the new system Wednesday, June 7, but several council members were unable to attend. "I'm quite hopeful that the council will become believers in this system once they have more information," said Biga.
She says a ban on smoking in restaurants could be the death knell of the Duluth Grill. "I really feel if we eliminate our smoking customers it's going to devastate our business. "
Biga says about 40 percent of the business at Duluth Grill comes from customers sitting in the smoking section.
Nedelcoff said the vents act just like a wall -- keeping smoke in one area. The air in the smoking section is exchanged once every 10 minutes. The filters have a life expectancy of about one year before they need to be replaced.

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