Health Department, Bars Prepare for Transitional Phase of Smoking Ban

By Jonathan Cooper |

Published 04/09 2014 04:34PM

Updated 04/10 2014 12:33PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Tim Lawrence is a co-owner of the Muny Inn in St. Joseph.

It's one of the many bars that will have to adjust now that voters approved a smoking ban on Tuesday.

"It's kind of like an every man for themselves moment," Lawrence said. "Everybody's going to try and do what they can."

The Muny, like many bars around St. Joseph, have ash trays that are lined up down the entire bar. Many of the people that come to the bar smoke inside. But the Muny is having to find other ways to deal with this smoking ban. The Muny is considering building a patio.

"We have to comply now with the regulations and distance from doors," Lawrence said. "It's something that we have to do and we're going to try and figure out how we are going to build it too."

The new ordinance will go into effect June 7, meaning buildings and restaurants have less than 60 days to prepare.

"A lot of places aren't ready," said Lawrence.

The St. Joseph Health Department will oversee the transition.

According to the language in the ordinance, the city manager can designate who enforces the law. The health department has the power to issue a summons.

"It is a huge step in the direction of better health for our community," said Debra Bradley, Director of Public Health.

Over the next 60 days, the health department will work with businesses to help them with the transition. That includes education classes, throwing away ash trays, and identifying correct no smoking signs.

"We will offer them assistance they might want," Bradley said. "If they want us to come in and train their staff on how to address somebody that is smoking or how to ask them to stop or how to ask them to leave."

For bar owners like Lawrence, the transition will be a stressful and uncertain time.

"I put everything I have into this," he said. "I come from a line of small business owners and I know what happens and I'm scared because every dollar I've ever had is in this and when this ends, if it would end, I wouldn't have anything."

A first violation for a person that smokes in an indoor space cannot exceed $50. It's a $100 maximum fine for a business that allows it. The fines increase with each offense.

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