Separation of alcohol and smokeFARGO - Fargo bar owners told a city panel Wednesday that all they want is a level playing field as they try to keep their smoking customers satisfied.
By: Helmut Schmidt, The Forum, Worthington Daily Globe
FARGO - Fargo bar owners told a city panel Wednesday that all they want is a level playing field as they try to keep their smoking customers satisfied.
They might have gotten that when they were assured by the Liquor Control Committee and the city attorney that the owner of the JT Cigarro tobacco shop and bar won’t be allowed to let customers move their smoking and alcohol use freely between the two establishments at 855 45th St. S.
The discussion also helped clear the air for bar owners on rules for outdoor patios and “butt huts” for smokers.
But away from City Commission chambers, the idea of allowing smoking around any worker – in a tobacco shop or not – had the head of an anti-smoking group fired up.
City Attorney Erik Johnson said that under the state smoking ban law adopted by the city June 10, retail tobacco stores can allow smoking. But smokers in the JT Cigarro tobacco store won’t be able to light up and head to the bar next door. Neither can JT Cigarro bar patrons take their alcoholic beverages into the tobacco shop.
“There has to be a separation there,” Johnson said.
Further, he said bar owners who add retail tobacco shops may have to revise their liquor licenses to show they have separate locations.
Johnson said he wanted to clarify the issue for the committee after a story in The Forum pointed to the split of the JT Cigarro tobacco store and bar as a potential loophole in the smoking ban law.
Dana Coulter, owner of JT Cigarro, said he has no problem with the city’s stance.
“That’s awesome news. That’s been pretty much what he’s (Johnson) told us all along,” Coulter said.
“I think you’ll see some other bars build tobacco shops,” said Mark Doyle, owner of Chub’s Pub, 421 N. University Drive.
Coulter said he’s ready to compete.
“They’re obviously free to do what they want,” Coulter said. “Its’ a lot easier said than done. It’s taken us years to set up the accounts we have.”
Coulter and others looking to try the tobacco shop route may have other worries.
Byrum Cartwright, chairman of the SAFE Coalition, said he feels the recent city smoking ban vote means no worker should be exposed to smoke, and that allowing smoking in the JT Cigarro tobacco shop violates the voters’ wishes.
“It seems to be clearly the intention of the public to ban smoking in all workplaces,” Cartwright said. “I don’t believe the intention was to give an exemption to the tobacco shop or any other place, because it endangers the employee.”
“It was our intention to have no exemptions,” Cartwright said, adding that his group will follow the city’s work on the issue.
Johnson and committee members said there could be issues to work through when bars have 15, 20 or 25 people heading outside to smoke at any one time, particularly along busy downtown streets.
Bar owners also asked for rules on how to operate smoking patios with liquor service, and for a definition of “enclosed” for those who want to build smoking shelters, often nicknamed butt huts.
Rick Carik, owner of Rick’s Bar, 2721 Main. Ave., said bar owners need definitive answers soon, since the building season is halfway done and cold weather will soon return.
“The rules got passed before the rulebook got written,” Carik said.
“Tell me what I can do and I can’t do. … As long as I’m on equal footing with others,” Doyle said.
“This will continue to be a process for quite some time as far as I’m concerned,” Carik predicted.
West Fargo officials are also working through the issues of smoking patios and butt huts with bar owners, Police Chief Arland Rasmussen said.
“It’s kind of a work in progress. We want everyone to succeed,” Rasmussen said. “We’re working with them and working the problems out step by step.”
Rasmussen said there are no businesses in West Fargo that are both bars and tobacco shops.