While there's no smoking at Hidden Treasures these days, the pulltab store continues to challenge Juneau's new smoking ban.
Smoking ban challenge
What Hidden Treasures wants: The Juneau pulltab store hopes to allow smoking by using an apparent exemption in the city's smoking ordinance for private clubs.
What the law says: The smoking ordinance specifically bans smoking in pulltab parlors. Smoking is allowed in restaurants, hotels, motels and service clubs used for private functions in which admission is determined at least three days in advance.
David Sanden, general manager of the pulltab store in the Mendenhall Center, is contesting the notion of a private club in Juneau's new smoking law. The smoking ban took effect Jan. 1 and prohibits smoking in offices, restaurants and other enclosed public places. It specifically bans smoking in pulltab parlors, but Sanden hopes to fall under an apparent exemption for private clubs.
However, City Attorney John Corso said the ordinance exempts private functions, not private clubs.
Sanden allowed smoking in his store for two days earlier this month after declaring Hidden Treasures a private club and collecting more than 100 membership applications from his customers. After informing city officials of his new status, he was told he wasn't in compliance. Smoking currently is not allowed in the store, Sanden said Friday.
"We're not arguing the merits of second-hand smoke, we're arguing the merits of whether people want to be exposed to it or not," he said. "Hopefully, we can amend the ordinance."
The ordinance exempts "enclosed areas used for conferences or meetings in restaurants, service clubs, hotels or motels while the spaces are in use for private functions admission to which is determined at least three days in advance."
Sanden said he's asked the city for a definition of a private club or a service club to no avail.
"What is a pulltab parlor? That's not defined either," he said.
Because the term "private club" wasn't used in the ordinance, Corso said he doesn't know why a definition would be needed. Corso said he thinks of a service club as a fraternal organization such as the Moose or Elks. The definition of a pulltab parlor is "pretty clear," he added.
"Pulltab parlors and bingo halls are specifically mentioned in the ordinance as enclosed public places," he said.
Sanden said he hopes to work with proponents of the ordinance to see if "a nonconfrontational solution can be reached to our mutual problem. If no solution can be reached, then I unfortunately think a judge may have to make the decision."
Representatives from the Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, which advocated for the smoking ordinance, could not be reached for comment this morning.
Since the ordinance took effect Jan. 1, three warnings have been issued to individuals, Juneau Police Department Capt. Tom Porter said Monday. No citations have been written under the new law, he said.
Sanden said the smoking ordinance puts him at a competitive disadvantage with pulltab operations in bars and private clubs, where smoking is allowed. Historically, about 70 percent of his customers have smoked, he said.
The three-page membership application for Hidden Treasures asks people to acknowledge that they will be exposed to secondhand smoke. Annual dues are $1 a year. Members also need to contribute $1 a visit or "actively participate in a fund-raising activity," which could include buying a pulltab. The application includes provisions to halt smoking if an employee asks not to be exposed to secondhand smoke.
Corso said wording in the ordinance that bans smoking within 10 feet of an entrance, open window or ventilation intake also has caught some people off guard.
"We've had a couple of people surprised that the ordinance does not apply to the entrances and exits of (some) government buildings," he said.
While the ban covers city buildings, it does not apply to the outside of state or federal buildings or buildings that are leased by the state or federal government, Corso said.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.