SMOKING BANNED IN PUBLIC PLACES IN COLUMBUS
Published: Tuesday, June 29, 2004
By Mark Ferenchik
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Opponents of the citywide smoking ban that the City Council passed yesterday are considering turning to Columbus voters to stop it.
The group of businesses and organizations opposing the ban, the Coalition for Customer Choice, could use a petition drive to put a referendum before voters on Nov. 2, said Andy Shaffer, a coalition member and vice president of sales for Shaffer Services.
"That's the great American way,'' said Shaffer, whose company supplies cigarette and other vending machines to bars and restaurants.
In a packed council chambers, the City Council voted 5-1 -- with Councilman Richard W. Sensenbrenner voting no -- to ban smoking from public places and businesses, including bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and bingo parlors. Councilman Michael C. Mentel was absent because of the death of his mother.
An amendment that Councilman Kevin L. Boyce proposed will allow smoking in private clubs with liquor licenses, such as veterans clubs.
That means some bar owners could consider privatizing their establishments as defined by state law to try to get around the ban.
In another amendment, business owners will get a warning letter the first time they are reported for an offense. After that, the fine will be $150 per incident.
City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. said he expects offenders to be cited immediately or sent a ticket. The law will go into effect Sept. 26.
Councilwoman Charleta B. Tavares, who introduced the legislation this month after the group SmokeFree Columbus put the original proposal together, said the law is in the best interest of the community's health.
"Many people are very angry,'' she said. "Emotions must take a back seat to what is fair and equitable.''
Tavares suggested the council in the future could exempt smoking rooms with ventilation systems -- something bar and restaurant owners wanted -- if the technology improves.
Councilwoman Maryellen O'Shaughnessy said she was disturbed at how quickly the legislation was pushed through, but in voting for it said, "All we're asking smokers to do is go outside.''
Jacob Evans of the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association said the 90-day grace period gives the ban's opponents some time to dig up other proposals to present to council so it can consider a less-restrictive law.
But Shaffer said the group also will consider a referendum.
If that is to happen, the opponents would have to collect 5,060 valid signatures of registered voters in 30 days.
The Franklin County Board of Elections would have to verify the signatures. The issue must be submitted by Aug. 19 to make the November ballot.
Before yesterday's vote, Shaffer said he remained optimistic his group could persuade enough council members to torpedo the ban. But he called a meeting with Tavares before yesterday's vote "pathetic.''
"It felt like Earle Bruce going up to Michigan after he was fired,'' Shaffer said. "Councilwoman Tavares is completely oblivious to our economic concerns.''
Tavares said she's interested in the impact on businesses, but added, "This community is made up of more than just businesses.''
"People must be stopped from dying from secondhand smoke,'' said Sam Gresham, president and chief executive of the Columbus Urban League and a SmokeFree Columbus leader.
Another SmokeFree Columbus leader, Marie E. Collart of the Central Ohio Breathing Association, said businesses will gain customers once people discover smoking is gone. She suggested that SmokeFree Columbus could help market those restaurants and bars.
Sensenbrenner, who offered amendments to exempt bars and businesses with ventilation systems, said the council should have taken more time to come up with compromise legislation.
"Too many of our citizens have their life savings tied up in these establishments,'' he said.
Nationwide, 1,700 cities, including Toledo, and six states, including California and New York, have smoking restrictions.
Originally, SmokeFree Columbus didn't want its proposal to be amended at all. But Dr. Rob Crane, a SmokeFree leader and an Ohio State University physician, said he was comfortable with the changes.
Now Columbus waits to see which suburbs will come onboard. Bexley, Dublin, Grandview Heights, Grove City, Powell, Upper Arlington and Worthington all will consider public smoking bans soon.
Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman will be watching what those communities do. If the suburbs allow more exemptions, then Columbus officials might have to do the same, said Mike Brown, Coleman's spokesman.
Brown said he expects Coleman to sign the legislation in the next two days.
Yesterday, Shaffer said that when he had lunch with Crane a month ago, Crane asked Shaffer for his group's help in swaying the suburbs to adopt bans.
"I took it as very arrogant," Shaffer said.
"I said, 'Dr. Crane, with all due respect, this game's not over yet.' ''
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Illustration: Graphic , Photo appeared in newspaper, not in the archive.
Photo caption: (1) Graphic
(2) CHRIS RUSSELL | DISPATCH
Lisa Dublin, an employee of Traditions Tavern in Columbus, protests against the smoking-ban ordinance outside Columbus City Hall. The City Council passed the ban last night.
Loophole gives bars flicker of hope
Taverns that become private, nonprofit clubs can get exemption from smoking ban
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
FRED SQUILLANTE | DISPATCH
Night bartender Sande Howard, far left, enjoys a smoke before her shift at New Point Cafe on the South Side. Howard fears that a smoking ban will decrease her tips.
So you want to transform your corner bar into a private club to skirt Columbusí new smoking ban.
Itís not as easy as saying, "Pay two bucks in dues and light up."
First, your bar must be a notfor-profit organization.
Second, your bar must be a private club as defined by state liquor laws: a group organized "for social, recreational, benevolent, charitable, fraternal, political, patriotic or athletic purposes" in which members prepay regular dues.
The club also must hold a D-4 liquor permit if alcohol is to be served. A D-4 permit can be issued to a club that has existed for at least three years and that will serve members only. A permit wonít be issued until elected officers of the club file with the state a statement that the club has dues-paying members.
When the City Council approved the smoking ban Monday night, it inserted an amendment that exempts private clubs from the ban, but only if no nonmembers are present.
Still, city officials expect bar owners will test the law, which goes into effect Sept. 26.
"Iím sure, as in any new effort, there will be an effort to find out how not to be regulated," city attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. said.
Setting up as a "bring-yourown-booze" joint wouldnít help, either, Pfeiffer said, because the law prohibits smoking in clubs where alcohol is served ó not just sold ó unless they have a D-4 permit.
"I think it would be looked at as a fraud," he said.
But Councilwoman Charleta B. Tavares, who led the councilís drive for the ban, said, "Never underestimate the deviousness of those who want to get around the law."
In creating the private club exemption, officials discussed the "Taverns for Tots" case in Toledo, Tavares said. The bar owners created a charity to take advantage of a loophole allowing smoking in private clubs and at private social gatherings. The bars charged a lifetime membership fee of $1 and promised to donate 1 percent of sales to charities to dodge the ban. A judge ruled that the organization was bogus.
Tavares and Pfeiffer said they believe the new law was written tightly enough so a group couldnít get away with something like that.
Pfeiffer said he presumes notfor-profit means the group is trying to "meet your expenses and thatís it."
Bar owner Diana Minshall, 61, said she canít afford to become a private club. She calls her New Point Cafe at 2631 Parsons Ave. on the South Side a "pool-shooting bar" that will lose customers because of the ban.
"They drink their beers, they smoke their smokes," said Minshall, who has owned the bar for 17 years.
Councilman Kevin L. Boyce proposed the private club amendment so groups such as the Merrymakers Club on E. Spring Street, the Cavaliers Club on N. 17 th Street and veterans groups could allow smoking, because those clubs are closed to nonmembers and donít sell to the public.
The new law does not require private clubs to register with the city, Pfeiffer said.
A church could allow smoking at a Las Vegas night fund-raiser, Pfeiffer said, but only if the crowd was restricted to church members. Attendees could drink and smoke only if the church held a D-4 permit.
Minshall said the law amounts to class discrimination.
"Weíre not the only south-end bar that caters to this clientele," she said. "Theyíre blue-collar workers."
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