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Published: Thursday, 8/28/2003

Bars prepare for new attack on smoke ban

More applications for a 120-day exemption from Toledo's new smoking ban trickled in yesterday as bar owners met to plan a second assault on the law.

Seven establishments filed letters from architects or contractors saying they intend to build smoking lounges that would allow their customers to continue puffing away.

The latest filings bring the number of exemptions requested to 15 out of all the affected establishments.

The latest are Twin Oaks Lanes, 2816 West Sylvania Ave.; Shawn's Irish Tavern, 4400 Heatherdowns Blvd.; Platinum Showgirls, 5801 Telegraph Rd.; R-House Bar, 5534 Secor Rd.; Deez Porterhouse, 4102 Airport Hwy.; Jalapeno's Restaurant & Cantina, 519 North Reynolds Rd., and Arnie's Eating & Drinking Saloon, 3332 West Central Ave.

The exemptions are being recorded by Jeanette Ball, manager of the city's division of environmental services, which enforces the law. City council voted in July to ban smoking in most bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and bingo halls. The law went into effect Sunday.

Establishments may set aside up to 30 percent of their service area for a fully enclosed, separately ventilated lounge for smokers. The ordinance grants 120 days from the date of the law's effective date for a smoking lounge to be established. City officials have said building plans must be filed by Sept. 23 with the office of the city building inspector to qualify.

Bill Delaney, regional vice president of the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association and owner of Delaney's Lounge on Alexis Road, said rules for applying for the exemption are unclear, and a building permit requires plans prepared by a licensed architect or engineer.

“A lot of us want to do this - we have to in order to keep our customers. It's not something we can do in five minutes,” Mr. Delaney said. “My intention is to get mine in by Sept. 23.”

Other bars are either complying with the law, or are undecided on whether to take on the expense and inconvenience of a smoking lounge. The cost of the lounges has been estimated at $20,000 and up.

Nicole Adler, a bartender at Old Roadhouse Inn, 224 South Erie St., said her establishment doesn't allow smoking indoors.

“It's pretty normal,” she said of the handful of patrons late yesterday afternoon. “We're not going to know [the impact] for a couple of months.” The inn gets much of its business from serving lunches.

Mayor Jack Ford said bar and restaurant owners can apply for a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration under a four-year program begun this year. The SBA will guarantee a loan for up to 75 percent of a project if the owner and the city put up the other 25 percent.

“We're trying to help small businesses and if they want to go through that procedure, I don't see why they'd be excluded,” Mr. Ford said.

Mr. Delaney said local bar owners met at Arnie's yesterday to discuss an initiative petition that would exempt bars, bowling alleys, and bingo halls, while keeping the ban for restaurants. A bar would be an establishment that gets more than 60 percent of its revenue from alcohol sales.

He also said the owners would support city council candidates who oppose the smoking ban and try to persuade others on council to support a partial repeal.

An effort to repeal the ordinance by referendum collapsed Aug. 20 when the Lucas County Board of Elections determined the smoking ban opponents fell nearly 1,000 signatures short of the 9,479 needed to place the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Mr. Delaney said the next opportunity to put the issue before voters will be in early March.



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