Clayton smoking ban gets initial OK

Post-Dispatch reporter Margaret Gillerman continues to frame this as a “smoking ban” rather than emphasizing the positive impact of this legislation by ensuring “smokefree air.” That allows opponents to rail against overzealous government limiting individual rights, a hollow charge.

Although Ballwin is currently the only metro St. Louis city with a comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance, Arnold was the first in the area to pass a comprehensive smoke-free restaurant ordinance. Unfortunately, in 2004 Arnold amended its ordinance to allow restaurants to install enclosed and separately ventilated smoking rooms.

Bill Hannegan was the third to post on-line at 12:46AM CST today [05/27/09] writing:

“The industrial air purification machines five Clayton restaurants have installed to clear their air of all the worrisome and bothersome elements of tobacco smoke also entirely filter out swine and avian flu viruses! Definitely a public health plus for Clayton restaurant employees that will be lost due to the ban.”

Clayton smoking ban gets initial OK
By Margaret Gillerman 314-725-6758

CLAYTON — Clayton officials on Tuesday took a giant step toward stamping out smoking in public places by giving initial approval to a smoking ban that would affect workplaces, stores, restaurants and hotels. They also urged other local governments to enact smoking bans so the entire region could go “smoke-free.”

Clayton would become only the second among the 91 municipalities in St. Louis County to enact a ban if the aldermen and mayor approve the bill after one more reading. Ballwin is the other.

Mayor Linda Goldstein said she was willing for Clayton to lead the way and approve a ban even without similar bans by other governments but added she hoped others would follow.

“Tonight we face a big decision, one I hope will lead other municipalities to move forward on behalf of their citizens,” Goldstein told the board and an audience that included many restaurant owners who opposed the ban.

“Some people have urged Clayton not to go it alone … to wait until there is a county or statewide ban,” Goldstein said. “I agree that a more widespread ban would be ideal and I promise to continue my efforts with other municipalities and St. Louis County and city to take a regional approach to this issue. If we pass this ordinance, Clayton will serve as an example to other municipalities and will give them encouragement to pass similar legislation.”

Alderman Michelle Harris also issued a challenge to other municipalities to join Clayton.

Final approval of the Clayton ban is mostly assured. All the six aldermen and the mayor spoke passionately about their support of a smoke-free Clayton. Alderman Alex Berger III cast the only dissenting vote and said he did so only because he wanted the ban to be stricter and extend to Clayton’s parks and green space.

Clayton’s ban would have some exceptions, including allowing smoking in tobacco shops, cigar bars and 20 percent of hotel rooms. In a compromise with opponents, the ban would allow smoking on businesses’ outdoor patios.

The ban would not be implemented until July 2010 to allow for the economy to improve and for restaurants to prepare for the change.

Unlike recent public hearings on the smoking issue, the chamber had some empty seats and there were no rallies outside. But some restaurant owners showed up to voice their still strong concerns about the ban.

Alan Richman, owner of Sasha’s Wine Bar, asked the board to consider amending the bill to “grandfather in” existing businesses until other municipalities adopt bans.

Natasha Creel, an owner of Roxane’s, suggested that Clayton allow smoking for late night business at bars after the kitchens have closed.

Frank Schmitz, leader of the Clayton Restaurateurs Alliance, said after the meeting that he objected to the exceptions for hotels but not for restaurants.

Anti-smoking advocates, parents, students, other residents and local doctors have turned out in force at City Hall in the last two months to champion the ban.

At the same time, the group of restaurant owners who belong to the Clayton Restaurateurs Alliance have packed meetings to denounce the proposal, saying it could force some of their businesses to close. They’ve told the aldermen that with the terrible economy and highway closings the timing couldn’t be worse. They fear they’ll be isolated with the ban and that customers will go to other nearby communities that allow smoking.

Several aldermen said they were sensitive to those concerns and favored the one-year delay in implementing the ban.

Alderman Judy Goodman, among others, said that public health was the main issue in support of the ban. “Continuing to allow smoking in Clayton seems incompatible with our priorities and our duty to protect the health and safety of this community,” Goodman said.

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