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Published: 5/11/2004

Smoke ban alterations opposed by 7 on council

BY JACK BAESSLER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A majority of Toledo City Council members say they see no urgent need to recast provisions of the citywide smoking ban at bars and some restaurants despite complaints that continue to trickle in about the economic hardships the law is creating.

Of Toledo's 12 council members, seven - Michael Ashford, Wilma Brown, Ellen Grachek, Pete Gerken, Wade Kapszukiewicz, Karyn McConnell, and Frank Szollosi - said last night they oppose amending the law that was adopted Aug. 24 but which didn't take effect for several months because of legal wrangling.

Two - Rob Ludeman and Bob McCloskey - said they favor changes, and two others - George Sarantou and Betty Shultz - said they support hearings to gauge the law's impact. Council President Louis Escobar could not be reached for comment.

"It was a public health issue when we voted for it," said Councilman Szollosi, who backs the law in its present form. "It is a public health issue now."

The law has survived court challenges, and opponents failed in a bid to place the measure before voters. Many residents appear to favor the results of the law.

"I don't think the tide is turning now or will in the near

future," Councilman Grachek said.

Others said there hasn't been enough time to witness the real effects of the new law.

Owners of small bars remain the most outspoken, council members said. Proprietors ar-gue the cost of constructing distinctly separate smoking areas in their establishments is prohibitive.

However, Mr. Sarantou and Mrs. Shultz said they are open to holding hearings to consider amendments aimed at easing hardships the law may create.

Bar owner Bill Delaney, on a local radio show yesterday, said he had about six council members' support for looking at amending the smoking ban. He didn't identify them.

Councilman Sarantou said he was unaware of any ground swell of support among council for smoking ban amendments.

"I don't know where Delaney gets that are six city councilmen with an amendment because that is news to me," Mr. Sarantou said.

"I am willing to listen and have hearings and go from there and make a judgment."

Bars smaller than 245 square feet are exempt from the smoking ban, but Mr. Ludeman and Mr. McCloskey believe bars of up to as large as perhaps 1,000 square feet should be excluded.

"I think the intent of the law was to eliminate smoking at restaurants where kids come in," Mr. Ludeman said. "In taverns, you aren't getting kids coming in. I think that is an easily discernible difference."

Contact Jack Baessler at:

jbaessler@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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