Bars brace for possible Monday vote on SB smoking ban

A proposed smoking ban expansion in South Bend is eligible for a final vote on Monday night, although some feel the city could pay a high price if it goes smoke free at city bars and private clubs.

“We pay our taxes, we pay our insurance, and we jumped through the hoops that they wanted us to jump through the past couple of years, and here they go again beating on our doors, telling us what we can do in our business,” said Carol Gleckler with Joe’s Tavern.

Gleckler and others don’t feel it’s fair that South Bend city government is considering an expanded ban for the second time in the past two years.

The smoking rules that are now in place were actually written and passed by St. Joseph County government, (in 2006) which means they establish a level competitive playing field for businesses in South Bend, Mishawaka, and those outside the city limits.

“Obviously it isn't a good idea to ban smoking only in South Bend bars, while still allowing smoking in Mishawaka and the rest of the county, so there is the business issue we are most concerned with at the moment,” said Gary Weese, of Jeannie’s on Bendix Drive.

“What happens, it’s not good for business, it makes one city more business friendly than the other, and I think the reason the county lead out in the first place is because we can all be unified,” said Sixth District South Bend Common Councilman Oliver Davis.

With a possible vote now just days away, some bar owners fear passage could amount to their own personal ‘last call.’

“If this passes, I have no doubt in my mind I will lose my bar, I will lose it,” said Lonnie Burger of Lonnie’s Bar and Grill. “I mean you cannot take 80 percent of our patrons and us make it, it’s just not going to happen.”

“I have to pay for a license to sell cigarettes and I can sell them to you, and then I have to turn around and tell you you can’t use them? I said that makes no sense to me at all,” said R.C. Chevrie with the Rum Village Inn.

Councilman At Large Gavin Ferlic is the sponsor of tougher smoking ban. Today, he expressed the hope and expectation that a vote would be taken at Monday’s meeting. “We're hopeful that Mishawaka will follow suit and pass if ours passes and we're hopeful that the county will follow suit if this passes, but really we can only control what happens in South Bend and we feel this is the best thing for the safety of employees in South Bend.”

In 2012, a similar ordinance was tabled and never came up for a vote. This time, four council members have signed on and sponsors, and five votes are needed for passage.

Smoke Free St. Joe released this statement: "Smoke Free St. Joe is encouraged by the recent conversations taking place between the South Bend City Council President, the City of Mishawaka Council President and St. Joseph County Council President in regards to a stronger smoke-free ordinance for South Bend. We applaud all Council Presidents for taking the first steps by engaging in conversation about the importance of a smoke-free ordinance for all workers and residents of St. Joseph County. We strongly recommend that South Bend Council continue to move forward with passing the smoke-free ordinance on Monday night without further delay. Smoke Free St. Joe strives to protect every worker in St. Joseph County and we offer our support and resources to both the City of Mishawaka and St. Joseph County when they choose to pursue a stronger smoke-free ordinance. "

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