Chesterton Tribune

Indianapolis bar owners back tougher smoking ban

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) A group of Indianapolis bar owners is backing a proposal that would ban smoking in their businesses but wants no exemptions for private clubs and other competitors.

The current Republican president of the City-County Council announced this week he would introduce an expanded smoking ban ordinance in time for it to take effect before February's Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

Democrats, however, take over majority control of the council Jan. 1 and many of their council members say that Council President Ryan Vaughn's proposal is too weak because it would exempt cigar and hookah bars, retail tobacco stores and nonprofit fraternal groups.

The group Save Indianapolis Bars, which has about 1,300 bar owners, employees and patrons as members, plans to lobby council members to minimize exemptions so private clubs and other competitors don't gain an advantage, The Indianapolis Star reported Friday.

Two years ago, the group took out radio ads opposing an expansion of the city's 2005 smoke-free law that has exclusions for stand-alone bars, bowling alleys and some other places. But many bar owners now expect tougher regulations.

"What we're looking at is trying to get them to not play favorites," said Brad Klopfenstein, the group's spokesman and managing partner of Claude & Annie's bar on the city's west side. "If it's a health issue that they're concerned about, exempting anybody pretty much says that it's not a health issue."

Some bar owners are preparing for "a horrible 2012," Klopfenstein said, with the smoking ban expected to cause lost business and, in some cases, bars to close.

Anti-smoking advocacy group Smoke Free Indy, which backs only the comprehensive plan so far, estimates 370 bars and other establishments still allow smoking.

By the group's count, Vaughn's proposal would exclude about 60 from the smoking ban: nearly 20 cigar and hookah bars, five retail tobacco shops, and 35 nonprofit private organizations, including country clubs, social clubs, fraternal organizations and veterans halls.

Democratic councilwoman Angela Mansfield said she hopes that Republican Mayor Greg Ballard would meet with her and other comprehensive ban supporters "to see exactly where he is on the issue."

Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter said the mayor's office is willing to work with all sides.

"We're talking and we're working toward the same goal," Lotter said.

Mansfield and Vaughn both say they want to rid bars of smoking before Super Bowl activities begin in late January. But Mansfield amended that goal Thursday: "I'd much rather see a good, comprehensive proposal in place, even if it's after the Super Bowl."

Vaughn said this week that he believed action on a new ordinance would be needed before January so that it could take effect before the Super Bowl.

A proposed statewide smoking ban failed in the Legislature this year after health advocates assailed as too week because if allowed exemptions for casinos, bars, fraternal clubs, smoke shops and nursing homes.



Posted 11/18/2011