Area smoking bans take effect in bars, restaurants

The smoking bans officially start today in Minneapolis, Bloomington, Minn., and Hennepin County.

Neil Munshi

Ashtrays filled up fast, and lighters sparked incessantly in hazy, smoke-filled Stub & Herbs on Wednesday as patrons marked the last night of smoking in local bars and restaurants.

It’s officially over. Smoking in bars and restaurants in Minneapolis, Bloomington, Minn., and Hennepin County is banned beginning today.

Despite the failed efforts of a group of local bar and club owners to keep the cities and county from enforcing the bans, owners might now be fined for not complying with it.

Stub & Herbs owner Sue Jeffers, who has been leading the charge to overturn the ban, held a smokeout at her bar. The event featured Chris Krok of AM 1500 KSTP broadcasting live.

While women in KSTP shirts handed out free cigars and matches, Krok interviewed Jeffers on her efforts to stop the ban.

“It’s not over yet; we’ve still got a lot of fight left in us,” Jeffers said amid cheers from bar patrons. “Hopefully, (today’s) ban is the temporary ban.”

Attorney Ryan Pacyga, who represents Jeffers and her fellow plaintiffs, said that he filed an appeal Wednesday to a judge’s ruling denying his request for a stay on the ban.

As a sign of solidarity, Pacyga said, St. Paul bar owners are holding a benefit to help bars the bans affect.

He said that regardless of how it fares in the appellate court, the group will move forward with its challenge to the constitutionality of the smoking bans.

Mark Wernimont, of Smoke Eater, an air-purifier company, said he compiled data from a study of air quality in St. Louis Park, Minn., bars and found they were 150 times safer than Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.

Another plaintiff, Steve Emebo, of the Bloomington VFW, said he thought it was wrong to infringe on freedoms members of his organization – veterans – had fought for.

“Having seven people in Bloomington dictate the policy of a private club isn’t right,” he said.

Justin Hughes, a biology senior who was at Stub & Herbs on Wednesday, said he also thought the smoking ban was infringing on civil liberties.

“But it’s good to see people fighting it, because it makes me wonder: If nobody fights, what’s the next civil liberty to go?” he said.

Mound, Minn., City Council member Dave Osmek said that the council sent a resolution to Hennepin County in September that said business owners have the same rights as private individuals.

After the county passed the smoking ban, it asked if Mound city police officers could be called in to enforce the ban. The council said “No,” Osmek said.

“I’m not sending one of our cops, who should be out patrolling Ö to the VFW to tell a veteran who fought for our freedom not to smoke. That’s just wrong,” he said.

On March 10, Jeffers and her fellow plaintiffs filed a suit in Hennepin County District Court asking the court to declare the Minneapolis, Bloomington and Hennepin County smoking bans unconstitutional.

They also asked for a temporary restraining order to keep the cities and county from enforcing the bans until a decision would be made in the lawsuit.

A judge denied the request for a restraining order.

Establishments that don’t comply with the ban can be fined up to $2,000 upon repeat offenses and possibly have their liquor licenses revoked as a last resort. If a customer refuses to stop smoking despite the owner’s repeated efforts, the customer can be given a ticket for disorderly conduct if the police are called.

Hennepin County passed an ordinance banning smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, in October.