Opposing sides negotiating all-inclusive smoking ban

Retailers' group, Clean Air Coalition to end talks this week

Posted: Sunday, May 09, 2004

Opposing sides of Juneau's proposed smoking ban are trying to work out a deal, city and bar officials told the Empire.

Negotiations between the Cabaret, Hotel and Restaurant Retailers Association and Juneau Clean Air Coalition are expected to end this week, they said.

Neither side would discuss the talks while they are pending.

At the April 26 Juneau Assembly meeting, Marlintini's Lounge owner Ethan Billings proposed a test to make bars smoke-free for a limited period of time. The test would allow bar owners to gauge the economic effects without having a smoking ban on the books, he said.

When asked if a trial period were part of the discussions, Billings said, "There are a lot of things being discussed. It's not just one issue."

Mayor Bruce Botelho suggested the two sides meet to work out a compromise, he said Thursday.

Botelho said he has offered "talking points where agreement might be reached." Both sides have taken those points back to their membership for discussion, he said.

"Both sides have certainly tried to communicate and work in good faith," Botelho said.

He is the only Assembly member in the negotiations. The two sides hope to meet again in the early to mid-part of this week, he said. They have met three times.

At an April 19 Committee of the Whole meeting, the Assembly moved toward asking voters to ban smoking in all public places in Juneau. Bar and restaurant owners along with anti-smoking advocates are opposed to the Assembly sending the smoking issue to the voters this October.

Allowing the public to vote on the issue is unfair, Billings told the Assembly on April 26, because many people do not go to bars or they have a negative opinion about bars.

Anti-smoking advocates fear that CHARR will use tobacco-industry money to persuade constituents to vote against an all-out smoking ban.

Bar owners are concerned that an all-out ban may decrease their revenues and even cause some bars to close. Anti-smoking advocates say bar and restaurant workers should be entitled to the same smoke-free workplace as employees in other industries.

The current clean-indoor-air ordinance allows smoking in stand-alone bars and some restaurant bars that were grandfathered in. The Committee of the Whole decided to craft two ordinances: one that would ask voters whether to extend the current ordinance to include all public places, and another that would extend the current ordinance only to places where minors are allowed.

Any compromise that is reached likely would go to the Committee of Whole on May 17, Botelho said.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.

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