Sunday, June 8, 2003

Lexington taking up ban on smoking

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - A newly drafted smoking ban would outlaw puffing in buildings open to the public, appeasing some bar-owners and restaurateurs who felt they were being unfairly singled out.

But the proposal is causing other businesses - from pool halls to coin-operated laundries to bowling alleys - to chafe.

The Urban County Council's services committee is expected to take up the proposal Monday. It could then pass it for full council review. If not, council members still could take it up in a regular meeting.

Restaurant and bar owners fought a ban targeting only their business more than a year ago. The council decided to study the issue further.

Restaurateur Bob Ramsey was one businessman who opposed that ban. Now, he says he'll accept this version.

"I made a stand that we would support a fair and equitable ordinance, and I stand by my word," Ramsey said. "I will take what's handed to us without protest."

The widening of the ban means owners of other types of businesses are sounding off, mostly against the proposal.

Bob Gullett, co-owner of Gullett's Family Billiard, said the ban would "ruin our business."

"Probably 90 percent of our customers smoke," he said. "People come here to have a beer, smoke cigarettes and play pool. If they can't smoke cigarettes, they might spend 15 minutes here and leave."

The ordinance would take effect 90 days after it has passed.

Private, nonprofit clubs, fraternal organizations and halls used for private functions would not be affected. Smoking also would be permitted on the Keeneland grandstand, which is mostly open-air.

Ellen Hahn, a tobacco-control researcher for the University of Kentucky, approved of the ordinance.

"It really is pretty good - I mean, amazingly," she said. "It is the best we could ever hope for."

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