Bar Owner Suing Over Smoking Ban Speaks Out

By Alan Van Zandt |

Published 04/30 2014 09:42PM

Updated 04/30 2014 10:42PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Unless you're in St. Joseph's north end, you might even not know Peterman's Shamrock exists.

It's a small, one room neighborhood tavern that its attorney even describes as a little, hole-in-the-wall, dive bar.

But its owner, Stephen Peterman, is now at the forefront of what is now the continuing fight over an indoor smoking ban.

"I'm very upset that they could tell one business yes, it's alright to operate this way, but telling me I can't," said Peterman.

Peterman's suit against the City of St. Joseph says it is wrong to allow smoking to continue on the gaming floor of the St. Joseph Frontier Casino but prevent him from letting his customers do the same.

Peterman says other than their sizes, the casino and his bar are similar in that both are places to go to drink, smoke and gamble. Peterman's Shamrock offers Keno.

"It hurts business and they're mad because they keep telling us to run our business," Peterman said.

The fight about a smoking ban went from the city council chambers to the polls and now to the Buchanan County Courthouse. Peterman's lawyer says it's a fight for his business.

Jonathan Sternberg cited a study from St. Louis.

"On average bars lost 10-15 percent of their revenue," he said. "For a small mom and pop operation like my client's is, that can be detrimental. People will lose their jobs because of this."

Aside from the fairness issue, Peterman has a lot of problems with how the city is recommending businesses create smoking areas outside.

"We have nowhere to go," Peterman said. "We are sandwiched between two properties. The 15 ft. regulation puts you in the driving lane of St. Joseph Avenue. I don't know what to do. There have been several questions asked of the city council and zoning commissions about what we can do to comply. Nobody has an answer."

Peterman's lawyer says a smoking ban on Peterman's Shamrock will steer customers away.

"So if someone wants to smoke, and most of his customers are smokers, now they can just go to the casino," Sternberg said. "he casino has a special privilege. The law exists and the constitution exists to prevent that."

The first hearing on the suit against the smoking ban is scheduled for late July, well after the June 7th implementation of the ban.

However, Peterman is also asking for an injunction to prevent the ban from going into place until all the legal issues are resolved.

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