Archive for Monday, May 3, 2004

Smoking likely to meet demise

Ban in public bars, restaurants expected to pass Tuesday

May 3, 2004


Smoking in Lawrence bars and restaurants would be banned July 1 under an ordinance to be considered Tuesday by the Lawrence City Commission.

Passage of the ordinance appears probable. Commissioner Boog Highberger, a swing vote on the issue, said Friday he would "likely" vote for the smoking ban.

"I don't feel real good about it, but I guess that's what I'm going to do," Highberger said.

Opponents of a ban say they're expecting it to pass -- and expecting to mount a petition drive that would force the issue to a referendum decided by voters.

"There's certainly been discussions ... so I think everybody's pretty aware of what the procedure is," said Chuck Magerl, owner of Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass., and a ban opponent. "Based on what I've seen, if the commission chooses to pass this ordinance, there would likely be a referendum."

Advocates of the ban say they're also ready to carry the campaign past Tuesday.

"If we do end up with this on the ballot, I'm confident the clean air advocates will win," said Judy Keller, director of the American Lung Association of Kansas and a member of the pro-ban organization Clean Air Lawrence.

Tuesday's meeting will come two weeks after a slim majority of commissioners decided to duck a decision on the issue, preferring instead to back efforts to put the issue on the ballot for referendum.

Highberger, who proposed the referendum, almost immediately reconsidered.

"I don't think that was a good decision," he said last week. "I have changed my mind about it."

The ordinance would ban smoking in "all enclosed public places" and "all enclosed places of employment." Smoking would still be allowed in private homes, some hotel rooms and the outdoors, including patios and outdoor beer gardens available at some bars.

Bar and restaurant owners have said a ban would hurt their business.

Highberger said Friday he shared those concerns. But he also said secondhand smoke posed an unwarranted health risk to workers at those establishments. That's why he won't seek a compromise measure to allow smoking during late-night hours at bars and restaurants.

"I can't in good faith agree to any sort of solution that allows a workplace health issue part of the time," Highberger said. "We don't allow unsafe mercury levels in the morning but not the afternoon, we don't allow an asbestos happy hour."

The commission meets at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

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