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Published: Monday, 8/2/2004

Coalition says it has enough signatures to be on fall ballot

A coalition of bar owners fighting Toledo's smoking ban said yesterday they had more than enough signatures to get an amendment to the ban on the Nov. 2 ballot.

"It's been going very well," said Bill Delaney, owner of Delaney's Lounge, 309 West Alexis Rd., and one of the organizers of the campaign.

The bar owners need 9,479 signatures of Toledo registered voters to get the amendment petition on the ballot. Mr. Delaney said his group has surpassed that mark and estimated it has about 14,000 signatures, which it intends to turn in this afternoon to City Council.

The group has said all along it wants to collect more than the minimum to make up for any signatures declared invalid.

Last year, the group collected more than 16,000 signatures but fell 972 short because so many were ruled invalid.

This time around, Mr. Delaney said he and other bar owners worked hard to ensure each signature was valid and accurate to avoid any problems. "We're not going to have 8,000 thrown out this time," he said.

Toledo's smoking law, considered the toughest in Ohio when passed in July, 2003, banned smoking in most bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and other public places.

Exempted were bars smaller than 245 square feet, private clubs, establishments holding private social functions, and authorized smoking lounges built to city requirements.

The initiative amendment would replace the current ordinance with one that would permit smoking in bowling alleys, bingo halls, restaurants with fewer than 10 employees, and bars that receive less than 35 percent of their gross revenue from food.

Bowling Green currently has a similar smoking ban with allowances for bars that don't serve much food.

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