View Full Version : Smoking ban passes in Minneapolis

07-25-2004, 09:51 AM
Last update: July 24, 2004 at 10:33 PM
Smoking ban passes in Minneapolis
Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune
July 25, 2004 SMOKE0725

Bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and billiard halls in Minnesota's largest city will go smoke-free on March 31, after a stunning 12-1 vote Friday by the Minneapolis City Council.

Council Member Barret Lane voted no.

Hours after the vote, St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly, who vetoed a ban last month because he preferred a regional approach, said he is now ready to support a similar ban in St. Paul.

"I certainly think there will be a smoking ban adopted in St. Paul [although] the form it will take I haven't discussed with City Council members," he said.

The vote came after two hours of debate and attempts to amend the ordinance.

"It was a shocker," said Council Member Gary Schiff.

He was one of the six members who sponsored the ban and was surprised at the lopsided vote. "It helps us send a really strong message to the Legislature and other governments to follow."

Mayor R.T. Rybak, who sat with the council for the debate but did not speak, said he will sign the ordinance, the third to pass a metropolitan-area city council in recent weeks.

A theme throughout the debate was that Minneapolis could be a smoking-ban leader. But Schiff conceded that that role was taken by Bloomington, which approved a more restrictive ban Tuesday that also limits smoking in outdoor areas. That ban also takes effect March 31.

Ban supporters erupted into applause after the vote.

"This certainly makes it easier for other cities," said Ed Ehlinger, a physician with the Hennepin Medical Society.

But those who believe that a Minneapolis ban gives momentum to legislative action might want to take a deep breath.

"Anybody who thinks that by Minneapolis adopting a ban, that will lead to a statewide ban, has not been paying attention in recent years to Minneapolis' effect in our Legislature," said Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, noting how the city has hardly been able to have its way with the Republican-controlled House and a GOP governor.

Mike Jennings, president of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which had opposed the ban, was subdued after the vote.

"In the end the council made the decision, and we're going to live with it," he said. But he added, "I'm immensely concerned with what's going to happen to the small bars and restaurants."

In mid-June the council sent the smoking issue to a task force to develop a proposed ordinance. The panel completed its work Monday. Although the task force ended up divided on the recommendation, the adopted ban was identical to its proposal.

Compromise effort

Council members spent much of Thursday trying to find a compromise. On Friday they looked at three amendments intended to lessen the potential damage to the owners of the smaller neighborhood bars. The failed alternatives tried to carve out permanent or temporary exemptions for establishments that sell primarily liquor. All the amendments -- which included an effort to allow smoking in establishments in which at least 50 percent of sales are liquor, and another setting a 70 percent threshold -- failed.

Council Member Scott Benson voted against the compromises and summed up the argument for many members. "If we could just pluck out those neighborhood bars and exempt them in a fair and reasonable way, we should do that. But there isn't a way to do that," he said.

Council Member Dan Niziolek, who represents Uptown, said that under some of the amendments, neighboring establishments would be in direct competition. Under one failed proposal, Old Chicago on Hennepin Avenue would be smoke-free while nearby Williams Pub could allow smoking. Similarly, Chino Latino could be exempted while nearby Campiello would be smokeless.

Council President Paul Ostrow described the proposed 70 percent threshold as "a desperate attempt at a reasonable compromise" and implored his colleagues to approve it.

"There are a lot of things that are great for the public health and bad for democracy, and this is one of them," Ostrow said. "Banning Big Macs is good for health, but we're not going to do that."

Five council members -- Ostrow, Colvin Roy, Lane, Lisa Goodman and Barbara Johnson -- had publicly denounced a ban. After attempts at compromise fell away, all but Lane went for the ban.

He has consistently said he thinks the issue is best left to the state, although Friday he supported establishing a 50 percent-minimum-liquor-sales exemption.

"When push came to shove, my constituents wanted me to vote for it," said Goodman, who had earlier opposed one of the proposed compromises as divisive. Johnson said she ultimately voted for the ban because it wasn't as sweeping as the initial proposal in June, which could have barred smoking in hotel rooms and home-based businesses.

Although she would have liked to see a narrower ban, the former nurse said it was difficult to oppose all bans. "I understand the dynamics of how few people smoke," she said.

Ostrow wasn't entirely happy with the outcome. "We had an opportunity to do much better than we did," he said.

St. Paul's move

In St. Paul, Kelly said the Minneapolis and Bloomington efforts meet the requirement for a regional approach.

He said that if a ban is adopted, he expects that the effective date will coincide with the bans in Bloomington and Minneapolis.

City Council Member Dave Thune, architect of the St. Paul ban, welcomed Kelly's support. "There shouldn't be any winners or losers in this battle. The only losers should be the tobacco companies," Thune said.

He said he expects council members to introduce a series of amendments to the smoking-ban ordinance to align it better with the restrictions in Bloomington and Minneapolis -- the previous ordinance called for a Jan. 2 start -- and to remove the provision for an exemption for businesses that provide a sealed smoking room.

Staff writers Joe Kimball, Terry Collins and April Bethea contributed to this report. Rochelle Olson is at raolson@startribune.com


07-25-2004, 09:45 PM
I wouldn't be able to hit the back rail, if I didn't have a cigarette burning beside my chair!