A legal effort to at least temporarily allow Lawrence smokers to again light up in public places was delayed Monday but not entirely extinguished.
Dennis Steffes, a Lawrence nightclub owner who operates Coyotes, 1003 E. 23rd St., and Last Call, 729 N.H., was not allowed Monday to make arguments before Douglas County District Judge Stephen Six on a motion to suspend enforcement of the smoking ban. The suspended enforcement was sought pending the court's ruling on a lawsuit by Steffes that alleges the ban is unconstitutional. Instead Six ordered that the case be heard by District Judge Jack Murphy on Dec. 16 because he had heard a previous case involving the same issues.
Steffes said the latest delay added to his frustration because he has been seeking a temporary injunction to suspend enforcement of the law since July, one year after the ban began and when he determined sales at his nightclubs were down by 40 percent.
"The system is being exercised," Steffes said. "It has been a real lesson in how our justice system works. But I grow more determined as these types of things happen."
More about the smoking ban
- 6News video: Report spurs talk of state-wide smoking ban (06-27-06)
- On the street: Do you think Kansas should adopt a statewide smoking ban?
- Ban could snuff smoking statewide (06-28-06)
- Report: Dangers of secondhand smoke more pervasive than previously thought (06-28-06)
- 6News video: Judge rejects smoking ban suspension (06-06-06)
- Judge again upholds city's smoking ban (06-07-06)
- 6News video: Smoking ban remains contentious 18 months in (01-15-06)
- Effects of city's smoking ban still in dispute (01-15-06)
- 6News video: Judge rules in favor of city smoking ban (12-22-05)
- Judge upholds city smoking ban (12-23-05)
- 6News video: Suspension of smoking ban in hands of judge (12-17-05)
- Smoking ban now in judge's hands (12-17-05)
- Kansas Health Foundation Grant
- Douglas County receives grant to expand anti-smoking efforts (12-05-05)
- More stories about the smoking ban »»
Steffes' attorney, William Rork, said he also was disappointed in the delay because he believed the city was being allowed to "improperly impose its will on citizens in an unconstitutional manner."
Rork has argued the ban is unconstitutionally vague and improperly supersedes state law. The city has rebutted both arguments.
Rork said he had advised Steffes to simply allow smoking in his business and let the city try to enforce the provision. The city failed to win convictions in four of the five cases it has brought against Steffes and later dismissed the one remaining case when Steffes appealed his conviction to District Court.
"I would prefer that he start allowing smoking and put up blinking lights to advertise it," Rork said.
But Steffes said he didn't plan to defy the ban.
City attorneys were prepared Monday to argue against Steffes' request to suspend enforcement of the ban. In a brief filed Monday morning, city attorneys argued the injunction would confuse the public and be unfair to businesses that have added outdoor patios and undertaken other expenses to adjust to the ban. They also argued suspended enforcement would be harmful to public health and were prepared to cite studies that suggest heart attack cases have been reduced by 40 percent in some communities that have adopted a smoking ban.
If granted, the injunction would suspend enforcement of the ordinance - which prohibits smoking in most indoor public places - for the duration of the case. Rork said that likely would be one to three months.