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Lottery Machine Does Not A Casino Make

Late last month a bar owner filed suit to stop enforcement of the smoking ban following the expiration of a previous exemption, which expired on January 2nd. Judge Dowd grated a temporary restraining order (TRO) until a hearing could be conducted — that hearing is scheduled for 10am today.

The exemptions are expiring for bars that make 25 percent or less of their income from food, are no larger than 2,000 square feet and do not allow anyone under 21 inside. But exemptions exist indefinitely for casino gaming areas, private clubs with no employees and tobacco retail stores. Bar owners who participate in Missouri Lottery’s keno program claim they can be considered a casino gaming area. The game requires the bars to be licensed as such. (Post-Dispatch)

So the argument is because they have a Club Keno game from the Missouri Lottery they should be exempt — just like a casino. Judge Dowd will, no doubt, look at St. Louis ordinance and Missouri law. Let’s take a look ourselves.

The Trophy Room, 5099 Arsenal. Click image to view location in Google Maps
The Trophy Room, 5099 Arsenal. Click image to view location in Google Maps

St. Louis’ Smoke Free Air Act, passed in 2009, can be found here. In the definitions we see:

3. “Casino gaming area” means the area of a state-licensed gambling facility where gaming is allowed for those 21 years of age or older, including any VIP lounge, accessible only through the game floor, whether or not gaming is allowed in the VIP lounge.

Casino gaming area, not lottery area.

Section 7 of the Smoke Free Act is where “smoking is not regulated”, in the list is:

6. Casino gaming areas as defined by this Ordinance.

The ordinance uses the word “casino”, not lottery. Missouri law for the lottery is under different sections than for casinos, the Gaming Commission is totally separate from the Lottery Commission.

As you may know, the number of casino licenses in Missouri is limited to 13, from December 2010:

The Missouri Gaming Commission gave the green light to Creve Coeur-based Isle of Capri Corp. to build the state’s 13th casino just north of downtown Cape. After hearing passionate pitches for months, the commission made its decision quickly, quietly and unanimously. (Post-Dispatch)

The City of St. Louis went from two to one licensed casino when the casino on The President Casino on the Admiral closed.

Judge Dowd will, presumably, consider the legislative intent behind the Smoke Free Act — to exempt the two, now one, casino.

— Steve Patterson

Small Bar Exemption From Smoking Law Ends Saturday (UPDATED)

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

Readers: Metro Should Ban Smoking at MetroBus Transit Centers Like They Do At MetroLink Light Rail Platforms

Ever since our MetroLink light rail system opened in 1993 it has been treated very differently from the MetroBus system, with the latter being sort of the bastard step-child. Smoking isn’t allowed inside bus or train vehicles but currently smoking isn’t allowed on MetroLink platforms, but is allowed at MetroBus transit centers — those places where many bus lines converge.

Looking east toward Taylor from the CWE MetroLink platform
Looking east toward Taylor from the CWE MetroLink platform. The garage at the left contains a MetroBus center where smoking is allowed but the platform where the photo was taken smoking isn’t allowed.
Many people use the Civic Center MetroBus transit center daily, where smoking is allowed despite the close quarters. 
Many people use the Civic Center MetroBus transit center daily, where smoking is allowed despite the close quarters.

When MetroLink opened in 1993 smoking was allowed on platforms, despite lobbying by light rail advocates to make platforms smoke-free Bi-State (no Metro) President John K. Leary Jr., whose wife smoked, decided to permit smoking. After he left for SEPTA in 1997 the policy was changed.

What justification is there for treating these two differently with respect to smoking? Smokers and non-smokers use both systems, which is why many MetroBus Transit Centers are located adjacent to MetroLink stations.

Here are the results from the Sunday Poll:

Q: Metro allows smoking at MetroBus Transit Centers but not on MetroLink platforms. Metro should:

  1. Ban smoking at both 29 [70.73%]
  2. Unsure/No Opinion 5 [12.2%]
  3. Allow smoking at both 4 [9.76%]
  4. Keep policy as is — smoking allowed at one but not the other 3 [7.32%]

I reluctantly accept the challenge it would be to ban smoking at thousands of bus stops, but enforcing a no-smoking policy at MetroBus Transit Centers is no different than at MetroLink stations. It’s time Metro!!

— Steve Patterson

4th Anniversary of Local Smoking Bans

I can understand that the ‘Good News Friday’ topic for today might be a matter of viewpoint, but it’s my blog and I think it is good news. Four years ago clean air/smoking bans in St. Louis City & County became effective. This has allowed me to visit places that I’d previously considered off-limits, such as:

Smoke-free interior of O'Connell's Pub in July 2013
Smoke-free interior of O’Connell’s Pub in July 2013
Hodak's, May 2014
Smoke-free interior of Hodak’s, May 2014
Milo's on The Hill claimed an exemption for ja little over a month, but went smoke-free on February 7, 2011.
Milo’s Bocce Garden on The Hill initially claimed exemption, but went smoke-free just over a month later. Milo’s is owned by 10th Ward Alderman Joe Vollmer

The St. Louis exemption for small bars will expire in just one year, on Saturday January 2, 2016 establishments that had been granted exemptions to continue allowing smoking will no longer be exempt. Will they be ready or will they be surprised at how quickly five years has passed by? No doubt some will squander the next 12 months but hopefully others are completing patios and such.

Casinos in the city & county, unfortunately, remain exempt. Other Missouri counties in the region aren’t yet smoke-free. The entire state of Illinois is smoke-free, including casinos.

— Steve Patterson

Fast Eddie’s Bon Air Legally Gets Around Illinois’ 2008 Smoking Ban

The last time I visited Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton IL (map), in 1998 or 1099, it was filled with smoke. Yesterday my fiancé and I had lunch there, his first time. Owner Eddie Sholar was a vocal opponent of the Illinois smoking ban that started on January 1, 2008.

Exterior of Fast Eddie's Bon Air in Alton IL
Exterior of Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton IL

In 2006:

Eddie Sholar doesn’t like all this talk about smoking bans. In his Alton bar, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air, about half the customers smoke. But he said they probably won’t quit if the politicians in Springfield enact a statewide ban. They’ll just drink someplace else. “They’re not going to come to a place where they can’t smoke, if other places are allowing it. If you have Missouri, where you can, and Illinois, where you can’t, they’re not going to come some place where they can’t do what they want to do,” Sholar said. The talk in Springfield this week was about a statewide smoking ban, which would replace Illinois’ six-week-old law that lets local governments outlaw smoking on their own. (Daily Chronicle)

Months after the ban started:

At Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton, one of the state’s busiest bars, the owners spent some $800,000 to build an outdoor facility resembling an old-time ballpark. The serving bar sits beneath an overhang. In winter, massive heaters blow warm air on the patrons, many of them smokers.

“I would never credit this stupid smoking law, but it certainly has helped our business,” said Ed Sholar Jr., whose family owns the bar. (Chicago Tribune)

Nearly a million dollars for a patio? Once you see what was built you’ll understand why it cost so much. The street was moved to make room for the outdoor soon. Basically they built a massive addition to the building, the translucent roof is raised enough to make it outdoors — technically. Fans and heaters keep the temperature more hospitable than the parking lot. This design also make it easy to ensure all guests pass through the front door, have proper ID, and are 21 years old. After six years of twice the seating capacity I wonder how they feel about the smoking ban, business is still great but they likely took on debt to fund the outdoor space.

The outdoor area is largely enclosed.
The outdoor area is largely enclosed.
Indoors was nearly full at lunch
Indoors was nearly full at lunch

We sat indoors, but walked through the outdoor room when we left. It was noticeably smokey, despite the efforts to minimize it.  I wouldn’t sit there, but thankfully the inside is smoke-free. UrbanSpoon has 30 reviews and none mention smoking.  Yelp has 125 reviews, 19 mention smoke/smoking, the relevant parts from each:

  1. now that the inside is non-smoking, it’s more crowded outside…and that’s where the real action is
  2. We sat outside (under an awning) but couldn’t smell any smoke b/c of the efficient set-up of fans circulating the air.
  3. It’s smoke free inside, but there’s now a HUGE smoking area outside, complete with giant heaters for the winter months, and another bar.
  4. This place has a lot of history and a lot of character, and it’s much nicer now that smoking in indoor restaurants has been banned in Illinois.
  5. Not a fan at all. The outside is still smoking and with the canopy the smoke [sic] is unbearable. Went here for a friend’s birthday party to listen to his favorite band and I had to leave after an hour the smoke was so bad.
  6. I have only been once in the evening to enjoy the music and it was a great time, but since IL is smoke free now, I am a pretty big fan of Sunday lunches at Fast Eddies.
  7. Yeah it doesn’t look like much inside, but I enjoy all the different areas you can sit inside and the new patio is nice. Well, actually I dont know it anyother way. Sucks that thats where people have to smoke, but if I can eat unhealthy amounts of food and wreck my body in that way, then let people screw their lungs up all they want. Right?
  8. Love this place. Great live bands, cheap cheap CHEAP food and drink. Only bad is all the smoke and sometimes a tad rough crowd. Will always be a fan. Bring cash bc no credit cards are accepted.
  9. The patio was crowded. A large cloud of smoke lingered around the ceiling and it looked like everything was clouded by a haze. We stayed inside but somehow I still smelled like smoke when I left.
  10. I’d say my favorite part is that the inside is smoke free. I love that there’s still a nice outside area, but being able to breathe indoors is always a plus.
  11. Awesome place, bring friends. Can get noisy, so if you don’t like crowds or noise, stay away. No smoking indoors, which is good, but smoking allowed on back covered patio. 2 bars outside, 2 inside.
  12. They have a nice outdoor area, which in the winter is enclosed with a tent but not really heated much… and they seem to be defying IL law by allowing people to smoke in the outdoor area (yes, it’s illegal to allow it outdoors even).
  13. As for the crowd at Eddies, let’s just say it’s ermmm … interesting and eclectic. LOTS of bikers, lots of smokers, and lots of loud types. To call it a rough crowd seems suitable, to me. It’s just not the kind of place most who aren’t into A) smoking, B) drinking of cheap liquor (house drinks are made with the cheapest stuff you can find … Juarez tequila for margaritas (GAG), C) hanging with bikers, or D) eating lower quality food to save yourself a buck.
  14. It’s almost always a good time at Fast Eddie’s. They have the nice outdoor area for people to be able to smoke and watch TV without freezing, live bands all the time, and great prices on good bar food.
  15. Good concept, like the casual atmosphere.  Their covered patio is a neat idea.  The cover band was very good, the food is ok and cheap.  Drinks weren’t too expensive and service was prompt and fun to interact with.  Coming from an area with no inside smoking though, this place was horrible for that.
  16. Cheapest bar food ever.  The fact that it’s now smoke free makes me want to go to this place more and more often, but it’s hard to really justify going all the way out there just for 1$ brats and burgers and their amazing steak on a stick… no wait… it isn’t.
  17. Been to Fast Eddies many times and never been disappointed. Good food, cold beer, low prices. Non smoking inside is great.
  18. Its one step up from a dive bar. Its smoke free inside which makes it better.
  19. I go there because my friends enjoy the place. the outdoor area is covered with a plastic sheet which makes you feel like ur trapped in a glad bag in the hot sun with smokers all around you! not a good feeling or smell for your clothes! the floor outdoors is filthy, people just throw there peel n eat shells from the shrimp on the hot asphalt, like they were peanut shells. talk bout a great smell along with cig smoke! the only thing worth going for is the VERY COLD high priced beer.

Mixed reviews of the outdoor area, but all are happy the indoor space is smoke-free.

Looking outside from inside
Looking outside from inside
Outside we see the wall the encloses the outdoor area.
Outside we see the wall the encloses the outdoor area where a street once existed.

The outdoor area is a smokey area, likely damaging to the servers who work there. However, the smoke-free interior allows those servers who’re concerned about second-hand smoke to continue working without having to take health risks. Customers can experience Fast Eddie’s without having to pass through the smokey outdoor area.

Compromises are just that.

— Steve Patterson




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