Council Could Consider Changes to Planned Smoking Ban

By Alan Van Zandt |

Published 05/05 2014 10:57PM

Updated 05/06 2014 10:36AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) At a work session Monday afternoon, St. Joseph's City Council discussed possible changes to a new indoor smoking ban that is scheduled to take effect next month.

Among the changes is the possibility of including the St. Jo Frontier Casino in the ban. The language of the law passed by voters last month allowed smoking to continue on the gaming floor of the casino.

A local bar owner has filed suit in Buchanan County court, claiming the law as written is unfair because it treats businesses differently and provides an unfair competitive advantage for the casino.

City council member P.J. Kovac has always supported a full smoking ban that included the casino.

"With logic, if 20 percent of the people smoke and 80 percent of them don't," Kovac said. "The 20 percent will drive to Kansas City but a heck of a lot more will be driving here."

As the make up of the city council has changed with last month's elections, the new council might be more likely to agree with Kovac.

"Before a couple council meetings we would have a 5-4 consensus to include the casino in the ban, but someone would always back out," Kovac said.

Upon threats of including the gaming floor in the ban, representatives from the casino said they could lose as much as 30-40 percent of their business. They told council members if that ban included them, they would not consider a move to downtown St. Joseph and might even close their St. Joseph location.

New council members Kent "Spanky" O'Dell and Ken Beck have spoken against the ban as written. Mayor Bill Falkner, Deputy Mayor Pat Jones, Barbara LaBass and Kovac also have been vocal against the ban.

Those six could form a new majority to make changes to the law that takes effect June 7.

"If we're worried about the tax revenue and the council has the ability to change the law, then what they could do is go ahead and include the casino," Kovac said. "If they see it's hurting them, we can change it back. We can be a leader for a change instead of a follower."

Many bars are also having problems with language written into the law requiring any kind of smoking area outside of a building be at least 15 feet away from the entrance.

Stephen Peterman of Peterman's Shamrock, who filed the civil suit against the new ordinance has spoken of problems he has with that portion of the law.

"The 15 foot regulation puts you in the driving lane of St. Joseph Avenue," he said. "I don't know what to do."

Kovac understands Peterman's concerns.

"A lot of them are having trouble with the 15 foot rule," Kovac said. "In Kansas City there's no rule, you can be right next to the door. There are several bars that don't have the distance period."

A court hearing on the law is scheduled for May 26th.

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