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Published: Friday, 2/2/2007

Official wants state to shut repeat smoke-ban violators

BY JENNI LAIDMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Grossman Grossman
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Taverns and restaurants that repeatedly violate Ohio's smoking ban should be forced to close, according to the Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner.

Dr. David Grossman this week wrote to the Ohio Department of Health, saying "repeat violators" ought to face the possibility of losing their liquor licenses, and if the business is not a bar, should face the threat of closing.

"I have a big concern that the fines will not necessarily be enough to bring these people into compliance," Dr. Grossman said.

While small businesses would not be able to afford repeated fines of $2,500, a large establishment "might consider this a cost of doing business."

"That's completely unnecessary," said Jim Avolt, owner of The Distillery on Heatherdowns Boulevard. "I think it's a foolish position, but that's not the first foolish position [Dr. Grossman] has taken on the matter.

"I don't think many places could afford to pay that kind of fine many times and remain in business."

The Toledo-Lucas County board of health last month unanimously approved a motion calling for the closing of repeat violators, which prompted Dr. Grossman's letter.

Dr. Grossman said the smoking ban rules under consideration by the state health department should include a mention that after so many fines, closing would follow.

For instance, a business might pay three $2,500 fines - the equivalent of five or six violations - before the closing provision went into effect, he said.

The Ohio Department of Health has not received the letter and could not comment.

But it appears that state law might already provide the authority to clobber liquor license holders who violate the smoking ban.

Matt Mullins, a spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, said state law allows the division to look at a license holder's record on compliance with any law when it reviews a license.

Licenses are renewed annually and local governments have the opportunity to file objections to such renewals.

The division can deny permits to any license holder that "has operated ... in a manner that demonstrates a disregard for the laws, regulations, or local ordinances of this state or any other state," according to the Ohio Revised Code.

If objections are filed, a hearing follows and evidence is presented. Later, the superintendent of the division rules on the license.

Decisions can be appealed to the Liquor Control Commission, and those decisions can be appealed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Contact Jenni Laidman at:

jenni@theblade.com

or 419-724-6507.



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