Twin Cities consider implementing smoking ban in restaurants

Bloomington city council approved a smoking ban on Monday.

In the next week, the Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils will vote on citywide bar and restaurant smoking bans.

Six states, including California and New York, have gone smoke-free in recent years, and many local governments have approved bans in cities without statewide bans.

The Bloomington City Council passed a smoking ban Monday. Some say the decision could pave the way for other local ordinances.

The Minneapolis City Council is expected to vote on its smoking-ban proposal Friday.

Councilman Paul Zerby, 2nd Ward, who represents the areas surrounding the Minneapolis campus, said “odds are good” that the ban will pass.

In May, the Minneapolis City Council postponed a vote on the smoking ordinance, but passed a resolution that formed a smoking-ban task force to foster community input.

Passage in Minneapolis would also increase the likelihood of passage in St. Paul, said St. Paul Councilman Dave Thune.

The St. Paul Council narrowly approved an ordinance 4-3 late last month, but Mayor Randy Kelly later vetoed it.

The council can override the mayor’s veto with votes from five of seven members. A vote is scheduled for July 28.

Thune said at least one of the dissenting votes probably resulted from an option allowing bar owners to maintain a smoking room. The option could be removed from the final ordinance, Thune said.

“Since the smoking room option is only that, an option, it can easily – and most likely will – be removed,” he said. “It looks good for a 5-2 Council vote overturning Kelly’s veto.”

But not everyone supports the smoking ban ordinances.

Greg Ortale, president of the Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association, said he does not support an all-inclusive ban. He prefers an ordinance like that found in Rochester, Minn., which exempts private clubs and bars where more than 50 percent of revenues come from alcohol sales.

A member of the Minneapolis smoking ordinance task force, Ortale said he was not happy with the group.

“The task force was a joke, a total waste of time,” he said. “It was all predetermined and was simply politically palliative.”

Wade Luneberg, who sat on the task force as a representative of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, said the local councils are moving too fast.

For example, Luneberg said the proposed March 31, 2005 enactment date for a Minneapolis ban does not give bars and restaurants enough time to prepare.

“There was talk of a June 1 date for enactment to allow time, or a cushion, for such things as education of affected workers and owners,” he said.

Luneberg also said some northeast Minneapolis businesses could see sales decrease up to 20 percent, as patrons travel to establishments in surrounding communities without bans.

But Minneapolis Councilman Dean Zimmerman said any negative effects on business will be minimized if Bloomington, Minneapolis and St. Paul all pass ordinances.

“We have every intention of making sure that all three cities’ ordinances go into effect simultaneously,” Zimmerman said.

Thune said local bans could eventually lead to countywide, regional, statewide or even national bans, which he would prefer.

“If laws still don’t pass (in larger government bodies), it’s up to the cities Ö Once cities take the lead, the dominoes will start falling,” Thune said.

-The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Freelance Editor John Vomhof Jr. welcomes comments at [email protected]