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Small Bar Exemption From Smoking Law Ends Saturday (UPDATED)

December 31, 2015 Featured, Politics/Policy, Smoke Free 3 Comments

Five years ago, on January 2 2011, the City of St. Louis went smoke-free — with the exception of casinos and existing small bars that met certain conditions. Since then, some small bars that qualified for the exemption opted to go smoke-free.

During the 2007 Spring elections I attended a 6th ward campaign event at Riley’s Pub, 3458 Arsenal — it was so full of smoke I could hardly breathe. Back then the space out front was just an expanse of concrete and a couple of railroad tie planters — see on Google Street View. Due to the small size, Riley’s Pub qualified for an exemption — indoor smoking could continue. Not long after the smoking ban went into effect, Riley’s began turning the space out front into a proper patio.

Patio construction underway in December 2011
Patio construction underway in December 2011

I’ve seen the new patio, but not photographed it. Even though it is finished, smoking is still allowed inside — until Saturday that is. A few days ago Riley’s Pub posted the following on their Facebook page:

If you don’t like to be around the smoke, you soon will be able to breathe easier at Riley’s. But if you are a smoker, consider stopping by New Year’s Eve or Day for a few last drags in the civilized indoors. 

Unlike Riley’s, two downtown exempt bars don’t mention the expiration of the exemption. I checked the website & Facebook page of Stanley’s Cigars — no mention.   Same for the website & Facebook page of Nara Cafe and Hookah Lounge.

Stanley's Cigars
Stanley’s Cigars
Nara Cafe & Hookah Lounge
Nara Cafe & Hookah Lounge

I think many places will be caught off guard — even though they’ve had five years to prepare. Will they fight the exemption expiration? Will they pay fines? Decide to close rather than change? We will soon find out.

Please have a safe New Year’s Eve, see you again 8am Sunday morning for the first poll of 2016.

UPDATE 12/31/15 @ 11:20am:

The situation changed after I wrote this post:

Trophy Room owner Herbert Krischke filed suit on Christmas Eve, asking a judge to block the city from enforcing the ordinance or declare it unconstitutional. In part, the suit argues that the law “grants a special or exclusive right, privilege or immunity” to casinos such as Lumière Place, which would keep its exemption. Bar owners say that sets a double standard.

Dowd issued the restraining order Wednesday because he wanted to schedule a full hearing on the matter, which has been set for 10 a.m. Jan. 11, according to Thom Gross, court spokesman for the 22nd Judicial Circuit. Krischke and other city bar owners believe they’ve found a loophole to the existing law. (Post-Dispatch)

I’d like the courts to invalidate the exemption for gambling areas.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. RyleyinSTL says:

    STL takes another step out of the dark ages.

    Now we need to work on amending the smoking ban to make it smarter. Let the cigar and hookah lounge shops have their smoking back (if that is literally all they do) and add a no smoking zone of 10 or 15 meters around building entrances (such as done elsewhere). I shouldn’t have to walk through a toxic cloud to get into a building.

    I’d love to see smoking banned in public parks and sidewalks as well… but that’s probably a pipe dream.

  2. Mark-AL says:

    Since I’m not a smoker, I think it is disgusting to walk into a bar or restaurant that allows smoking. But I also find the drinking behaviors of some smoking and non-smoking bar patrons to be equally disgusting. Researchers are hard-pressed to link 2nd hand smoke with cancer. So beyond the disgusting odor, the effects of 2nd hand smoke in a bar may not adversely impact the health of a guy sitting at the next table. But on the highway, the effects of liquor on the guy in the adjacent car may not be so innocuous. And given what we know about 2nd hand smoke effects vs 2nd hand liquor effects, I’ll place my money on the safety of sitting at the next table and dealing with the stink, vs riding in the adjacent car and driving defensively against the drunk. And so I have difficulty with banning smoking all-together in bars, unless of course we ban drinking in bars as well. But if we do that, there’s no reason for the bar in the first place, and so we’ve now managed to legislate another industry out of existence. In Italy, it is common to find “smoking only” rooms located inconveniently in many bars. Many airports around the country have set up similar smoking areas. In Berlin, patrons smoke openly and un-apologetically, even puffing away directly below “NO SMOKING” signs. No one seems to care, or if they do, they don’t patronize the bar. And in Berlin, it isn’t wise to challenge a Berliner. At the Missouri Athletic Club in STL, an exemption was granted to pacify the wealthy and influential campaign supporters. Figure that one out!

    I wonder why society doesn’t establish smoking vs non-smoking bars, and leave it at that? We’ ve already introduced “non-alcoholic” bars in several areas around the world. The health effects of smoking vs the health effects of drinking can be debated ad nauseam and both sides will emerge the victor. Maybe we over attempt to legislate other people’s lives too much.

    When I was in high school, my dad bought a Billy that turned out to be gay. At rutting time, my dad would place him in a fenced area with the Nannies, and the Billy would refuse to embrace the Nannies, he’d act up, refuse to eat, raise hell, piss all over the Nannies and anyone else who came within 10 feet of him. Then my dad realized the Billy’s breeding days were over, he no longer expected him to perform, removed him from the fenced area, and the Billy became an affectionate and loyal outside pet. That’s when I first realized that sometimes it’s futile–and downright unfair– to try to force certain voluntary behaviors on to others, especially where there are a myriad of alternative solutions ready to be experimented with.

    • JZ71 says:

      On a larger scale, this is what happens when government tries to selectively regulate any addictive behavior. Those that benefit are “all in”, those that find it harder to get their “fix” scream bloody murder, whether the reality matches their fears, or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, guns or religion. We’ve reached the point where live and let live, just walk away, has been replaced by “we gotta change things”, we “need to DO something”, we need to change behavior, because, dammit, “they” are not “smart enough” to embrace MY vision of a perfect world!


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