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Published: Monday, 1/10/2005

Wauseon City Council may alter smoking ban

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Waitress Lisa Rhodes, left, and assistant manager Barbara Jacquot work at White Lattice Cafe, where police ordered removal of ashtrays Friday after they found smoking in the building. Waitress Lisa Rhodes, left, and assistant manager Barbara Jacquot work at White Lattice Cafe, where police ordered removal of ashtrays Friday after they found smoking in the building.
LUKE WARK / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

WAUSEON - Longtime waitress Deb Gault sees Wauseon's new smoking ban as an assault on her paycheck.

Mother-of-three Terra Meeker views the ban as a protection of her young family's health.

Today at noon, Wauseon City Council is to vote on amending the ban to make it easier to enforce. But councilmen might also propose a compromise for the city so split and so passionate about the smoking ban. Some residents are talking about putting another initiative on the November ballot if they are not satisfied by council's amendments.

"There's no way for us to be fair to everybody," Council President Karen Krumm said last week of the initiative that voters approved with a 51 percent majority Nov. 2.

Councilmens' opinions appear diverse, and council legally can make any change it wishes to the ordinance that was put into law by an initiative petition put on the ballot by about 15 core members of the Tobacco Free Fulton County Coalition.

Mrs. Meeker voted for the ban, which does not allow smoking in restaurants or most other workplaces.

"Our health is in jeopardy by the second-hand smoke, and that's not their right to pollute our lungs," said Mrs. Meeker, who last week was with her three small children at McDonald's Restaurant on North Shoop Avenue, which has not allowed smoking since April.

But she said she would be quite satisfied if City Council amends the ban to allow smoking in separate dining rooms.

Terra Meeker, a resident of Wauseon, views the smoking ban in her city as protection of the health of her young family: Jadon, 4, from left, Cale, 7, and Aslinn, 1. Terra Meeker, a resident of Wauseon, views the smoking ban in her city as protection of the health of her young family: Jadon, 4, from left, Cale, 7, and Aslinn, 1.
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In the tiny Tiffany's Caf downtown, where Mrs. Gault is a waitress, however, there's no room to easily enclose a separate smoking area. And Tiffany's attracts many smokers.

One is Sherry Malone, who's been eating at Tiffany's and its predecessor several times a week for years.

She smokes two cigarettes - one before she eats and one after while she pages through a Harlequin romance - and she said that's more important to her than Tiffany's meals, although she likes its food and prices.

"The whole point of sitting down and eating is relaxing with coffee and a cigarette," she said, adding that if Wauseon eliminates smoking in restaurants, she'll eat in the Delta area, which is closer to her home and work.

She still might buy Tiffany's swiss steak special on Fridays, but she said she would take it carry-out if she can't smoke in the restaurant. If so, Mrs. Gault, who voted against the ban, would have one less table to wait.

To Mrs. Gault, the only acceptable compromise would be for City Council to allow Tiffany's to keep smoking throughout, perhaps by exempting restaurants its size from the ban or grandfathering in existing establishments. And the restaurant could, she said, post a sign in the front window warning any unaware customers that it is a smoking establishment.

The only restaurant manager in Wauseon who allows smoking now and has not asked council to amend the ban appears to be Pizza Hut's Bill Bauer.

"We're not for or against it," said Mr. Bauer, who has had a smoking section in the North Shoop Avenue restaurant for the more than 14 years that he's managed it. Even if council would amend the ban to allow smoking in separate dining rooms, he said he would not build walls in the restaurant, although it has space to do so.

"The cost of it wouldn't offset the business," he said.

The ban, which he was not enforcing late last week, might lead smokers to order take-out pizzas instead of eating in the restaurant, he said. But he predicted that at least in nice weather many would simply smoke outside before and after they ate; it's not uncommon to see that now.

"Smokers will sit in a nonsmoking section before nonsmokers will sit in a smoking section," he said.

Wauseon's smoking ban has been in effect legally since Nov. 22. But apparently neither City Council, proponents, or opponents of the ban realized that until last week when The Blade questioned city Law Director Jeffrey Robinson.

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-337-7780.



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