Archive for Saturday, January 7, 2006

Bar owner: Smoking ban labels him a criminal

January 7, 2006


Lawrence bar owner Dennis Steffes is continuing his fight to have the city's smoking ban declared unconstitutional.

Steffes on Friday filed a new motion asking that enforcement of the ban be halted until a court determines the ban's constitutionality. Douglas County District Court Judge Jack Murphy last month denied a motion to suspend enforcement of the 19-month old ban.

But Friday's motion asks Murphy to reconsider his ruling based on additional arguments. Specifically, Steffes - owner of Coyotes and Last Call - said the court did not fully consider that Steffes had been branded a criminal because of the three citations he has been issued under the new ban. Steffes' attorney, William Rork, of Topeka, told the court that damage was irreparable.

Steffes also continues to argue the ban is unconstitutionally vague because it does not specifically tell business operators what they must do when someone is found smoking in their businesses. The city has argued that the ban is not vague, and that Steffes has not been damaged by the ban.

Murphy has tentatively set a hearing for March 7.


beer_N_cigarettes 12 years, 4 months ago

...the ironic thing is that of all people he's whining about constitutionality (you know notions of being fair, responsible, legal, above board, etc.)

Amandak 12 years, 4 months ago

This is not a question of the constitutionality of the smoking ban, its an issue of drumming up publicity for his clubs. I have seen no proof that the ban "truly" harms business. The clubs seem just as busy as they always were. Mr. Steffes questions the constitutionality of the ban but, by the same token, he has his patrons coming to the Last Call searched before they enter the club. Now, one can argue that the searhes are for the "safety" of the patrons and the community and, I agree. However, the smoking ban is also designed for the safety of the bars' patrons and the community. This, it seems, paints Mr. Steffes as a hypocrite. Its time that Mr. Steffes steps down from his soapbox and stops trying to write his name into the history books. Mr. Steffes, if you want to increase business, pay for traditional forms of advertising like every other business in town. I still cannot believe the Journal World finds this "fight", and I use that word very loosely here, newsworthy. At its inception, the smoking ban was long overdue and is now here to stay. I love going to bars and restuarants and not having to smell like smoke when I leave. Kudos to the City of Lawrence for passing such a ban.

Jaime Baggett 12 years, 4 months ago

I also am extremely satisfied about the no smoking inside public places ban. As a person who loves to hear live music but who is carring a baby; I can go to these places without worry or concern that myself or my unborn child will get second hand smoke. It's quite a relief and quite frankly, it is the safest thing for all of us. Way to go Lawrence, we are a healthy city and we should be proud of it!

dream 12 years, 4 months ago

The ban hasnt hurt business?

Try going out downtown Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Used to be all the bars were full or had lines to get in. Now? Only a few have any business to speak of. Hardly anyone is out on the streets. Many bars here in town are up for sale. Downtown Lawrence is DEAD! However the bars outside Lawrence are doing a large percentage more business they did not have before the ban. All the people that wanted this ban are not giving the support they promised. Why? They didnt go out much before and still dont go out. A lot of people that go to bars regularly do smoke. Even people that dont usually smoke will do so when drinking at a bar. Remember Bella Lounge? Should have been a huge success if that was what everyone wanted was a non smoking bar. Should have had a line around the building of people begging to get in. People were not going there for one simple reason... They could not smoke. Ask Hereford House how much the ban has hurt them. Used to have a full bar on the weekends. Now it is empty all the time save for a very few regulars. Those that pushed for this ban knew it would hurt business, they had it in their notes that this would force some bars to close, they obviously didnt bring that point up. Even the liquor and beer distributers acknowledge the huge decrease of bar sales. However the reatil liquor stores have increased dramatically since the ban was instated.

Yep, the ban has sure killed the vibrant nightlife this town had. It would have made sense had KC and Topeka done a ban. Anyone who believes otherwise hasnt been out and is living on fantasy island.

Jaime Baggett 12 years, 4 months ago

Dream: Should our health and a few businesses going out of business be a priority or should killing ourselves and a few bars that support us killing ourselves stay in business???? You are quite a pessimist and you should look at the positives here, for one....keeping ourselves healthy. Perhaps barowners should look into something that is good for us like juice bars and something that would help improve their karma. Do you think owning a bar and fighting for people to produce second hand smoke to others is good for ones' karma? It's not...and this ban goes to prove that for us.

girly 12 years, 4 months ago

The real issue is that as business owners and adult patrons, we should be able to make our own decisions regarding legal activity and not be dictated to by a small group of individuals who apparently think that their opinion is all that counts. As has been said before, if you don't like smoke, don't go there. It should be our choice and although we get comments from people who are happy about it, believe me, there are a lot of people who aren't.

Jaime Baggett 12 years, 4 months ago

Well Girly, as an adult I should be able to make my own decision and not be dictated to inhale someone's second hand smoke in a public place. Any person should be able to go into any public place and rightfully breath clean air. Since a smoker cannot contain their second hand smoke, it should not be produced inside a public place. Clean air should be a universal law around the world! *Our health is the only thing that should count, yours too.

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

Mindspeaking, no one is dictating you inhale smoke in a "public place." You are dictating to privately owned businesses what legal activities they can allow on their property. No one would force you to go to a privately owned business that allowed smoking. You would still have your free will to not patronize such a business. You are the one who is forcing your will on others, not vice-versa.

Amandak 12 years, 4 months ago


You must be one of those whiney smokers! If public places allowed smoking, that means that at any given moment of any given day a smoker would, inevitably, be smoking away inside one of the businesses. That means, non-smokers, if they desire not to breath in second hand smoke, could not patronize such establishments. I firmly believe that the right to breath fresh, clean air TRUMPS anyones "right" to smoke in public. Get over it and move on!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 4 months ago

It would seem that this discussion needs a reminder that the law is against smoking indoors in a place of employment, and not a ban on smoking in public spaces, although it does have that effect. As I have said before, it would be possible to open a smoking establishment if it were run soley by owner/operators.

Why don't some of you diehard smokers' rights advocates open up such a place? Put your money where the smoke goes in.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 4 months ago

Never mind. I hadn't read it in a while, and my memory was faulty-- I agree with your interpretation.

pepper_bar 12 years, 4 months ago

can someone please explain to me why smoking on public sidewalks is perfectly acceptable but smoking in privately owned restaurants is not?

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

Other assaults on asthmatic airways that are ubiquitous in downtown Lawrence are diesel fumes, perfume, deodorant, hair spray, fabric softener, garlic, curry, marijuana, unwashed hair and bodies, dogs, cats, incense and chrysanthemums.

Ban them all!!! And make the owners of businesses responsible for enforcing the bans. If the business owners are not able to keep people from stinking up the air, put them in jail.

Asthmatics, take a big hit on your inhalers and shout UNI-heh-uhh-hrrrm-huh-huh-rrrm, rrrrm.



Hong_Kong_Phooey 12 years, 4 months ago

Steffes is a nutball. He just keeps trying to find publicity for his losing battle, and for his loser bars. For example, the article about the police having a dog outside of Last Call - that happened in June or July! Why is it just now becoming a story?? I'll tell you why. Steffes is trying to redirect the attention from the fact that he's losing his court battle. The staff at the Journal World are just dumb enough to buy into his hijinks.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 4 months ago

"Other assaults on asthmatic airways that are ubiquitous in downtown Lawrence..."

Let's take a look at your list.

"diesel fumes,"

Neither diesel engines nor diesel fuel are produced in Lawrence, so it's unlikely that the city commission could have any effect on this source of pollution. Same goes for gasoline fumes. I suggest you write your congressman if you want to see these problems addressed.

"perfume, deodorant, hair spray, fabric softener,"

These are all contributors to indoor air pollution, but none are applied while in a bar or restaurant. I'm sure even you can see the impracticality of requiring business owners to police their use.

"garlic, curry,"

While I understand the point of your post is to be absurd, this goes beyond absurd.


Before the ban, in some bars occasionally someone would fire up a doobie under the cover of the smoky haze of tobacco smoke. That is no longer possible. And marijuana is currently still illegal, which is not the case for tobacco.

"unwashed hair and bodies,"

Are you volunteering to be bathing enforcement officer?

"dogs, cats,"

Are you unaware of the many laws regulating these and other animals?


I'm not aware of any bars or restaurants using it in the last several years, but I would think that if it becomes a problem, it could easily be added to the smoke ban.

"and chrysanthemums."

Good luck on your campaign to ban flowers. You might make it on Bill O'Reilly's show when it finally dawns on him that there is no campaign to ban Christmas.

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

And Bozo is the one who accuses people who ridicule Dadaism of having no sense of humor.

Chrysanthemums are like ragweed to asthmatics.

Add scented candles and oils to the list. Gag.

ModSquadGal 12 years, 4 months ago

Ah... the age old argument rages on. The ban HAS been passed and IS in effect and it HAS made Lawrence a much nicer place to be. End of story.

Steffes needs to stop portraying himself as a victim and start concentrating on the blight that is his "bar." Smoking is the least of the problems at Last Call.

The bars and restaurants that have either complained of slower business or have gone under (even Bella Lounge) did so because of crappy business practices, and/or crappy, high-priced food (like Hereford House) not because people couldn't smoke anymore. Downtown Lawrence is NOT dead, it's WINTER, and the students have been gone. Come nicer weather, the lines will be back as will the patrons and the profits.

Bottom line: Nobody truly believes the "slippery slope" crap, so that is just a stupid way to comment about the ban. Smokers are forcing their disgusting habit on people who choose not to smoke. It shouldn't be the responsibility of the NON-smoker to stop going to public places where smoking is allowed. It should be the responsiblity of those who are polluting the air to go outside.

If I had my druthers, I'd require smokers to wear a sealed fishbowl on their heads when they smoke. Then they could go wherever they want and not force others to breathe in their smoke.

wonderhorse 12 years, 4 months ago

A business, such as a bar, is not a public place. It is a privately owned business, there is nothing public about it.

ModSquadGal 12 years, 4 months ago

"Public place" meaning a place the public can patronize of their own free will.

wonderhorse 12 years, 4 months ago


Yes, exacly correct. A "place the public patronize of their own free will." Not a place they have to be, but a place they choose to be. They also have the choice to not be there. That is not a "public place." The Douglas County courthouse is a public place. Coyotes is not.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 4 months ago

I think a lot of non-smokers and other supporters of the current ban would support a relaxed version of the ban that would allow some smoking establishments to exist.

They would have to be small and relatively few in number, could not be restaurants, and you'd have to gain the support of at least 3 commissioners to get that passed.

A complete overturning of the ban will not get passed, whether through a referendum, or a revised ordinance passed by the commission. No matter how unfair you might find the current ban, in the eyes of the majority it's not as unfair as the tryanny of a minority that existed under the old status quo

cowboy 12 years, 4 months ago

I gaurantee you if you had a smoking beer joint/ restaurant in downtown there would be a line around it

Go to KC where you can smoke , they appreciate your business , and the service is normally superior to Lawrence's restaurants

thegeezer 12 years, 3 months ago

If smoking were banned everywhere there would still not be 'clean' air, we just wouldn't be reminded about it until another group could be found responsible. I imagine that the same people who complain about having to smell another person's smoke have no objection to using the restroom and inhaling their ...

underground_voice 12 years, 1 month ago

I am a smoker and work in a bar. I enjoy the excuse to leave the filthy hands of the patrons and step out back; however, the fire marshal should not be worried about the cigarette smoke that Last Call produces so much as the "other" smoke it contains in the so called VIP room!

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