City inspectors signed off on a dozen new occupancy permits for smoking lounges yesterday, bringing to a total of 29 the number of establishments certified to allow smoking as Toledo begins full enforcement of its smoking ban today.
The ban originally was passed by City Council July 8 and took effect Aug. 24, but Mayor Jack Ford agreed to allow extensions so business owners could apply for permits and construct the lounges. The last 30-day extension delaying enforcement of the ban for some of the estimated 1,500 bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and other establishments affected ran out yesterday.
Other than establishments with approved smoking lounges, city officials said only those businesses that meet exemptions listed in the smoking ban law are permitted to allow smoking. That includes bars with less than 245 square feet; privately catered events such as weddings, and private clubs if the general public is not invited.
A handful of area bars are claiming they meet the latter exemption. Members of “Taverns For Tots” ask patrons to pay $1 for a lifetime membership to their bars. Proceeds from the memberships will go to benefit underprivileged children, organizers say.
But the legality of the private charity is being challenged by city officials and appears headed for its first court test.
A charge filed in Toledo Municipal Court by a city environmental inspector accuses James Pierson, 62, of Temperance, Mich., of illegal smoking. The incident allegedly took place Jan. 15 in Delaney s Lounge, 309 West Alexis Rd. The minor misdemeanor carries a potential $100 fine.
Lounge owner Bill Delaney said yesterday the lounge was being used for a private event for Taverns For Tots, and Mr. Pierson was exempt.
Mr. Pierson could not be reached for comment. The case is set for its first hearing Thursday in Toledo Municipal Court.
Taverns For Tots has been attacked by supporters of the smoking ban as an attempt to circumvent the city s smoking law. City lawyers, so far, have withheld judgment. They met yesterday with attorneys representing Taverns for Tots and told them the law requires them to register their club under the law and submit information explaining how the charity meets the criteria of the law. A response is expected within 24 hours.
At that time, the city Division of Environmental Services and the city law department will determine whether they meet the criteria for a membership organization, Mary Chris Skeldon, the mayor s public information officer, said last night.
“Therefore, any events they have been holding are illegal,” she said.
The 29 approved smoking lounges are far fewer than the 119 businesses that had applied for building permits last year. Nevertheless, Ms. Skeldon seemed pleased with that figure yesterday.
“I think that s pretty good,” she said, adding that four inspections are set for today and more are expected.
A four-month exemption period to build the lounges expired Dec. 22. Sixty bars and restaurants were given until yesterday to complete the lounges.
Ms. Skeldon said no more extensions will be granted, and pub owners have been notified of that by mail.
“They need to get an occupancy permit or go smoke-free until they obtain their permit,” Ms. Skeldon said.
Some bars appeared to be avoiding the smoking ban by allocating their premises to Taverns For Tots. Most others, however, have just banned smoking.
“I was told by the owner at midnight to extinguish the cigarettes and pull the ashtrays,” said Mike Shroyer, manager of Shawn s Irish Tavern, 4400 Heatherdowns Blvd. “It s not going to make me a popular guy. But I can t afford the fine.”
He said Shawn s is installing a covered, heated patio, but the awning had not been received as of last night. Plans for a smoking lounge were scrapped as too expensive, he said.
Jalapeno s Restaurant & Cantina, 519 North Reynolds Rd., also received a 30-day extension. But as of last night, the establishment had no occupancy permit. A woman answering the phone said it was participating in Taverns For Tots.
The city s building inspection division was kept busy this week inspecting bars and restaurants to make sure their lounges complied with the law.
The law requires smoking lounges to be fully enclosed and ventilated outside. They cannot occupy more than 30 percent of the service area of an establishment, lie in the path of entrances, exits, or restrooms, and cannot be adjacent to a food service line. Employees cannot be required to work in the lounge.
As of yesterday s deadline, occupancy permits have been issued and smoking is permitted in:
Andrea s Sports Pub, 3338 West Alexis Rd.; Buster s Bar, 2704 Nebraska Ave.; El Camino Real, 2500 Sylvania Ave.; Ground Round, 5806 Telegraph Rd.; Jed s Barbecue & Brew, 35 East Alexis Rd.; Lair Lounge, 3332 Glendale Ave.; Miss Cue, 216 New Towne Square; Ralphie s, 5294 Monroe St.; South End Bar & Grille, 5105 Glendale Ave.; Southwyck Lanes, 5255 Heatherdowns Blvd.; Twin Oaks Lanes, 2816 Sylvania Ave.; Barbie s Place, 5025 Bennett Rd.; Doc Watson s, 1515 South Byrne Rd.; Jake s Saloon, 2520 Dorr St.; Amigo s, 5327 Dorr St.; Jugs Bowling Alley, 5111 Jackman Rd.; Louie s-J J s Cafe, 3922 Lagrange Ave.; Molly s Diner, 2430 West Laskey Rd.; Gumbo s Bayou Grill, 18 Main St.; Navy Bistro, 30 Main St.; Nick & Jimmy s, 4956 Monroe St.; Coney Island, 5001 Monroe St.; Miss Cue, 1720 South Reynolds Rd.; Jed s Barbecue & Brew, 2531 South Reynolds Rd.; Secor Lanes, 5520 Secor Rd.; Anchor Inn, 4950 Suder Ave.; Fritz & Alfredo s, 3025 North Summit St.; Orchard Inn, 2804 West Sylvania Ave.; Carmel s Mexican, 2947 Tremainsville Rd.