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Back to the ballot: Businesses in Springfield speak about smoking ban effects

Voters approved a ban on smoking in most indoor public places last April, and businesses have differing opinions.

March 27, 2012|by Linda Russell, KY3 News | lrussell@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The city's great smoke-out reignited on Monday night after the city council by one vote rejected an initiative petition to repeal the citywide ban, and sent it back to the voters.  The issue will now appear on the ballot on June 5.  Businesses sit on opposite ends of the issue.

At the Knightyme Bar and Billiards, the lunch crowd has faded away.

"If you've got two people in the group of 10 that smoke, and they say they're not coming in, guess what happens to the other eight?  They're not here either," said Jim Knight, owner of Knightyme Bar and Billiards.

Knight says, compared to a couple years ago, his business has dropped 40 percent, despite his new outdoor addition for smokers. 

"It doesn't seem like anything, at this point, is sufficient enough to get the people back into the bar," said Knight.

Knight believes city council's rejection of the initiative that would have repealed the smoking ban in public indoor spaces may be to his benefit. 

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"If they did approve the petition, then they would have watered it down to look like the current one is, so, in some ways, it was important that it go back to vote so we have our say-so," Knight said.

Mayor Jim O'Neal believes the ballot box is the only fair way to go. 

"I felt they should be treated the same as the other petitioners were treated, and let it go to a vote of the people and not have the city council usurp their opinion and what they were trying to accomplish," said O'Neal.

Across town, sending smokers outdoors made happier customers indoors. 

"I think the bars felt it more than we did, but being a bar and a restaurant, primarily a restaurant first, we didn't see the effects that they had," said Patrick Duran, owner of Metropolitan Grill.

Metropolitan Grill even decided to go smoke-free before it was law. 

"I understand the plight of the smokers.  I'm not a smoker myself, but I understand they feel the right to enjoy what they want to do as well, but I think the majority has spoken, and the majority has said they would like to stay non-smoking in Springfield," Duran said.

So could it be an endless cycle?

"Could be," said O'Neal, but he also says there is talk of making some changes to the initiative petition process, perhaps increasing the number of signatures required. 

The petition to repeal the smoking ban will go on the ballot on June 5 at a cost of $80,000 to $100,000.

An appeals court ruling also could come in the coming weeks on a lawsuit challenging the smoking ban ordinance.  If the ruling strikes down the smoking ban, another vote wouldn't be necessary.  Taxpayers could foot the bill either way, however.  O'Neal says ballots are prepared six weeks prior to an election, and the June 5 election is nine weeks away.

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