P-D 11/04/09: “Smoking ban opponents say they will fight it”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had reporters Phil Sutin and Margaret Gillerman covering the con and pro smoke-free air groups. Margaret Gillerman was at Pi Restaurant in Kirkwood as the results were coming in and picking up quotes from former Ballwin Ald. Charley Gatton, chair of County Citizens for Cleaner Air and County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser when it became clear Prop-N had won handily.

A Channel 5 reporter was also finishing interviewing Charley Gatton as I arrived at 8:15 pm before any election day results were known.

The threat by Bill Hannegan to pursue legal avenues to challenge the result in either the city or county is not considered credible, according to Charley Gatton, who thinks it will lose, just like the legal challenge against the state law, which it was claimed did not allow stronger local ordinances, despite the absence of specific language to that effect. I share Charley’s view that the attorney is merely lining his pocket at Hannegan’s expense, but apparently Hannegan can afford to keep attorneys employed.

After an election battle like this there is elation about winning but also a sudden deflation as the need for all that adrenaline vanishes. Still, it’s nice to be able to go into a calmer mode after all the activity of the last few weeks.

Smoking ban opponents say they will fight it
By Phil Sutin and Margaret Gillerman

Updated: 12:42 p.m. Wednesday

The leader of opponents of smoking bans in St. Louis and St. Louis County said they would look at ways of overturning them.

Bill Hannegan said today said that opponents were considering seeking a referendum in the city. He heads a group called Keep St. Louis Free, a network of opponents of smoking bans in city and county.

He said opponents had not yet met to decide a course of action.

“We’re still taking it all in now, especially the ban in the city.”

On Tuesday, St. Louis County voters overwhelmingly approved a ban on smoking in most public places in the county. It also applies to the city, because the Board of Aldermen enacted a ban contingent on county approval.

Hannegan said that owners of bowling centers in St. Louis County were the most upset by the vote.

He said he expected some establishments to try to get around the ban by altering the ratio of food and drink they serve. The county ban exempts establishments that derive less than 25 percent of their revenue from food.

Earlier story:
St. Louis County voters on Tuesday simultaneously made most public places there and in the city smoke-free.

With light turnout ā€” about 20 percent of the county’s 705,000 registered voters ā€” about two-thirds of them favored Proposition N, which, with some exemptions, bans smoking in public places on Jan. 2, 2011.

The ban applies to the city also because the Board of Aldermen last month approved a similar measure, contingent on county passage. The city ban, including exemptions, also takes effect Jan. 2, 2011.

With the statewide ban in Illinois, Tuesday’s vote means that two-thirds of the St. Louis area’s population will live in an area that bans smoking in public places.

Meanwhile, Kirkwood voters overwhelmingly passed a separate ban that is more strict than the county’s, in that it applies to all bar-restaurants. The county’s ban exempts bars that don’t sell a lot of food, but does allow municipalities to enact stricter bans. The county’s exceptions also include casino gaming floors and the smoking lounges at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

News of the passage of the county and Kirkwood bans was greeted with cheers Tuesday night at a rally at Pi, a restaurant in Kirkwood.

Barbara Fraser, the St. Louis County Council member who sponsored the county smoking ban bill, said she was thrilled by the results.

“It’s a very important health issue for our county, our region, and the whole state,” said Fraser, D-University City. “As a result of the county’s passage of this legislation, the city ordinance will go into effect and, consequently, the entire state could become smoke-free in public places.”

Charley Gatton, chairman of the County Citizens for Cleaner Air, said, “We’re thrilled. It looks like it’s finally happening.”

But an opponent, Gary Voss, said the ban might kill his bowling center, the West County Lanes in Ellisville.

Voss, executive director of the Greater St. Louis Bowling Proprietors Association, predicted that 10 of the 21 bowling centers in St. Louis County would close.

Smokers would go to competitors in St. Charles or other counties which allow smoking, he said.

The county, he said, “doesn’t care for the mom-and-pop bowling centers” and favors out-of-state casino owners.

Voss predicted that his association would challenge the smoking ban in court. The ban, he said, “is so unfair.”

Bill Hannegan, a leading opponent of smoking bans, said he and his supporters soon will consider whether to challenge the constitutionality of the exemption for casinos gaming floors. He called it “special interest” legislation.

Some Kirkwood bar and restaurant owners who fought the last smoking ban proposal there in 2006 did not wage a campaign this time.

“There was no organized opposition in Kirkwood, as far as I know,” said Jeff Rekart, manager of PJ’s Tavern, which allows smoking, and the next-door Jefferson Grill, which is smoke-free.

Rekart said a countywide ban would be better than a city-by-city one.

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