Council hopes to ban bar smoking

Anna Holland

The Ames City Council voted Tuesday to broaden the proposed smoking ban in restaurants to include bars as well.

The council also decided to present the ordinance to State Attorney General Tom Miller for a formal opinion on whether or not the ordinance is in compliance with state laws.

City Councilman Russ Cross called the amendment a “pro-health issue.”

“If smoking is bad, then it’s bad everywhere,” he said.

City Councilwoman Sharon Wirth agreed. “I think this is a way for us to recommend as a community that this is a serious public-health issue,” she said.

The previous draft of the ordinance outlawed smoking in local restaurants, but allowed exceptions for “establishments that have more than 50 percent of their gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages” and places “located within 1,000 feet of Interstate Highway 35 [or] provide parking places for more than twelve semi-tractor trailers.”

Ames resident Maureen Ogle called the exceptions “discriminatory legislation” and said the ordinance “represents small injustices of a dictatorship.”

“Explain why secondhand smoke hurts people who eat in restaurants but not in bars?” she said. “You have to assume it’s injurious to everyone.”

She said people should not eat in places where they feel uncomfortable with the level of smoke.

George Belitsos, director of the Ames Tobacco Task Force, supported the expanded ordinance.

“We’ve been working on this issue for over three years,” he said. “The one and only reason is it’s a severe public-health issue.”

Belitsos said he would support the ordinance “at any level the council pursues” and called the ordinance “one of the most important issues” in Ames.

Belitsos said more than 800 American communities have implemented smoking bans with no decrease in business.

Ames citizen Rich Johansen also supports the expanded ordinance.

“It’s much better and fairer to implement something across the board,” he said.

Johansen said the expanded ordinance would have “minimal impact” on local businesses. Local bar owners, however, were outraged at the meeting.

Peter Sherman, owner of Boheme, 2900 West St., said the ordinance would destroy his business.

Sherman said more than 70 percent of his business comes from international students. In their countries, he said, “smoking is far more acceptable than it is here.”

Sherman also said the council has an “important duty” to protect the health of residents, but it also has a duty to ensure the health of businesses.

Bob Alley, manager of Okoboji Grill, 2719 Grand Ave., said the ordinance will not stop people from smoking around restaurants.

“The only thing that happens is that people move outside,” he said. “You have to walk right through it.”