Assembly skirts smoking ban

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A barrage of bar owners told Assembly members Monday night that the smoking ban is ruining the bar business in Juneau.

Photo By Klas Stolpe
Photo By Klas Stolpe

The comments came during the public testimony for a rewritten smoking ordinance, the "Second Hand Smoke Control Code."

The Assembly held over the proposed ordinance in favor of more discussion at the next Assembly work session.

The ordinance was rewritten by city attorney John Hartle at the request of the Assembly as a way to close loopholes allowing some private clubs to escape enforcement.

Forty people signed up to testify before the Assembly. Several community members spoke in favor of the ban as proposed.

Private club member Jim Pound said the smoking ban's intrusion into the Eagles Club was unconstitutional on a state level and "probably federal."

Several other owners complained that the ordinance is costing them and their employees a viable living.

Bar owner Jack Tripp said he's let four employees go since the portion of the law governing bars went into effect on Jan 2. Trip also chastised the Assembly for telling him he could build a smoke store, which he built for $12,000. The new law extends the ban into specialty retail shops.

"Now you're taking it away," he said.

Larry Kinik said the new ordinance would kill Donna's Restaurant's private club, where he is a member. The club will close, he said.

"It was never about economics," Juneau resident Joan Cahill said. "It was about public health."

Several employees of nonprofit health organizations spoke in support of the public health aspects of the ban. Dr. Bob Urata said heart attacks dropped in Helena, Mont., by 60 percent and in Pueblo, Colo., by 40 percent annually after statewide "clean air acts" were passed.

Bar owner Ethan Billings offered the Assembly a few exemptions of his own for the city ordinance, including outside seating and smoking rooms in bars. As written, the new law also would extend the ban into outside seating.

James Barrett said the language offered by Billings was a chance at a solution. "Give the bars their smokers back and the public clean air," he said.

"It might be workable," said Assembly Member Jonathan Anderson.

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