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Published: Tuesday, 1/13/2004

Inspectors to check out smoking ban complaints

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Ford administration is planning to send inspection teams, including police officers, to establishments that have been named in calls to the city s smoking ban hot line, a top city official said yesterday.

In addition, the organization that helped lobby for the anti-smoking regulations says it will take an active role in identifying violators.

Toledo s ban, the most far-reaching in Ohio, prohibits smoking in most bars and restaurants, except in approved smoking lounges.

The law was supposed to be fully enforced by Dec. 22, but the administration has given 60 bars and restaurants until Jan. 22. Fifty-nine have applied for permits to build lounges, but did not get extensions.

Seven businesses have obtained occupancy permits, according to city officials. They are Amigo s, 5327 Dorr St.; Jed s Barbecue & Brew, 35 East Alexis Rd.; Louie s JJ s Caf , 3922 Lagrange St.; Gumbo s Bayou Grill and Navy Bistro, the Docks at International Park; Molly s Diner, 2430 West Laskey Rd., and Orchard Inn, 2804 West Sylvania Ave.

Bill Franklin, city assistant chief operating officer, said the inspection teams will include a health inspector and/or an environmental services inspector, as well as a police officer.

“There could be some resistance. We re going to start off with police going along with them to see how things are going,” he said.

The teams will begin by visiting some of the 107 establishments about which complaints have been received on the hot line, he said. They will issue citations, with fines of $100, if they see people smoking illegally, he said.

The mayor s office hosted a meeting Friday to discuss enforcement, with representation from City Council and the city departments of building inspection, health, environmental services, law, police, and fire. Also attending the meeting was Stuart Kerr, an anti-smoking lobbyist.

Mr. Kerr, a founding member of Group Against Smoking Pollution and regional director for Tobacco-Free Ohio, said 1,300 people joined GASP during the drive to get the legislation passed last spring. Many will begin reporting violations that they see in bars and restaurants in Toledo.

“Because of some of the antics that have been going on, I have to admit we were a little concerned about what was being done or wasn t being done,” Mr. Kerr said. “GASP has a lot of eyes and ears. We re very dedicated to this issue and we want to be involved.”

Bill Delaney, owner of Delaney s Lounge, 309 West Alexis Rd., and the spokesman for bar owners group Citizens for Common Sense, said his group will continue its fight against the law, including a federal appeal.

“We ve got a few things in the works also, so if they re stepping up we re stepping up also,” Mr. Delaney said, declining to elaborate.

Meanwhile, bars and restaurants aren t setting any speed records in completing their smoking lounges by Jan. 22.

TGI Friday s restaurant applied for a building permit on Dec. 16, but there were no indications yesterday of impending construction.

General Manager Matt Morris said the architect was expected to pick up the building permit yesterday afternoon.

“There will be around-the-clock construction,” he said. “We will start sometime in the next couple of weeks. We re trying [to be done by] the 22nd.”

The restaurant plans to expand and enclose its bar area as a smoking lounge, making the rest of the dining areas smoke-free.

Gus Mancy, co-owner of Mancy s Steaks, 953 Phillips Ave., has enclosed an area with nine tables for the smoking portion of his restaurant. He said it s 80 percent finished.

Mr. Mancy said the law has driven away a few regular customers, but said he was not in support of spending money to fight it.

He said some of his fellow restaurateurs and tavern keepers are unfairly blaming the smoking law for the loss of business.

“There s a lot of societal forces” contributing to the downturn, including 30 chain restaurants opening in the area in the last year and a half, and the reduction in the legal blood-alcohol level from 0.10 to 0.08 last July. “Nobody even talks about that,” Mr. Mancy said.

Mr. Delaney said he doesn t believe that the lowered blood-alcohol content has anything to do with people going to bars less frequently.

“Nobody pays any attention to that. If they want to be out, they re going to be out.

“And if they want to smoke, they re going to go where they can smoke,” he said.



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