South Bend council tables smoking ban

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The debate over a controversial smoking ban in South Bend will continue -- in a couple of months.

After hours of discussion, the council voted 5-3 to table the bill for 60 days.

The compromise was suggested by one of the bill's sponsors, Valerie Schey, after several council members opposed to the proposal asked for more discussion with the city of Mishawaka and St. Joseph County before taking action.

"I don't want to rush to judgement," said Council President Oliver Davis. "Something of this magnitude needs more time."

Davis says Mishawaka and St. Joseph County need to give their input on the proposal and perhaps take the issue up, as well.

The smoke-free air ordinance would go further than the state's ban by also prohibiting smoking in bars and private clubs.

There were so many people at Monday's meeting, the fire marshal wouldn't let everyone inside.

Several South Bend bar owners spoke out, saying a ban that only applies to South Bend is unfair and could have a negative impact on their bottom line.

"The way this ordinance is written does hurt South Bend businesses, at least potentially," said Gary Weese with Jeannie's Tavern. "Because, our customers, customers that we depend on, could very easily cross the city line as this ordinance is written, so they could go to a smoking establishment there."

But, several supporters also spoke out Monday. Bill sponsor Gavin Ferlic says the last thing the council is trying to do is hurt South Bend businesses.

"We can only rely on what's happened in the past," he said. "There's significant data from communities on borders, from cities, from counties, from states that passed clean air ordinances that take a look at macro bar revenues. If anything, they find that bar revenues remain the same. But, in some occasions, bar revenues actually increase."

Supporters also argue secondhand smoke is a major health hazard and something all workers in South Bend should be protected from.

"I'm not debating whether or not someone has a right to smoke or not," said Angie Addison. "That is a personal decision. But, when it affects other people around you, you can say whatever you want, "Just don't go there," but, there are so many places you're exposed to secondhand smoke that you can't necessarily avoid."

The council will take the issue up again July 14. But, there won't be another public hearing, unless the bill is amended.

Over the next two months, they plan to meet with local business owners and neighboring communities to get their input on the proposal.

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