South Bend smoking ordinance inches forward

South Bend's Common Council gave first reading to the controversial ordinance that would ban smoking in bars and restaurants during its meeting Monday evening.

"We certainly recognize change is difficult and we're presenting a change, but ultimately I hope that everyone in the community and our colleagues on the council will look at the evidence that has been presented," said Valerie Schey (D) - District 3.

Schey, along with Fred Ferlic, Oliver Davis and Gavin Ferlic co-sponsored the bill. In order to pass it, they would only need one vote, but may struggle to get it.

"If a business person has built up their business and their establishment, in my view it’s up to them whether they would like to have them continue or not," said Derek Dieter (D) - At-Large.

The bill may also drive smokers to nearby cities or into the county where smoking would still be allowed.

"I think it should be county wide. It's not fair to a city resident or city business that if this were to pass and I have no idea if it would, for someone to be able to go into the county and the same thing, so my own personal opinion I would not be for it," said Dieter.

During the Health and Public Safety Committee earlier Monday afternoon, Code Enforcement expressed some concerns about enforcing the ordinance, although it had been formally reviewed yet. Proponents said it would not take many more resources to enforce this ordinance, if it passes.

"Certainly we will be working with the code department and their officers to really go through the training required. It's really more of a self-policing type of ordinance where the bar owners will be asked to ask guests that are smoking to stop smoking," said Schey.

In anticipation of many people speaking on both sides, Schey said the council scheduled the public hearing for June 18 at 5 p.m. A vote could come during the regular meeting on June 25.

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