Enforcement was the word of the day on Thursday when 24 tickets were issued to patrons and managers of bars that failed to comply with Columbia’s smoking ban.
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department teamed up with the Columbia Police Department’s Community Action Team to inspect eight bars that continued to receive complaints about smoking violations. Tickets were issued at six of the bars: both locations of TP’s Bar and Grill, at 5614 E. St. Charles Road and at 912 Rain Forest Parkway; the Blue Fugue, 120 S. Ninth St.; Tiger Club, 1116 Business Loop 70 E.; Hoot-N-Anny’s, 904 Business Loop 70 E.; and Black & Gold, 2101 Business Loop 70 E.
Each ticket carries up to a $200 fine for violating the city ordinance.
Gerry Worley, environmental health manager at Columbia/Boone County Health Department, said there have not been complaints for the majority of businesses and smokers. Action was only taken against the few places where people were still smoking.
Environmental health specialists responded to earlier complaints with educational efforts. They explained the ordinance to managers of establishments on multiple occasions and handed out letters detailing the ordinance.
“When education is not working, we resort to using enforcement,” he said.
Although the Health Department is responsible for enforcing the ordinance, health officials can’t issue summonses to violators. Therefore, it is necessary to involve police.
The smoking ordinance that took effect on Jan. 9 prohibits smoking in enclosed public places and enclosed places of employment in Columbia.
Four of the six bars involved declined to comment and one could not be contacted.
Hoot-N-Anny’s plans to file a lawsuit against the Health Department for harassment, said Chet King, owner of Hoot-N-Anny’s. Its customers were caught smoking in the 600 square foot patio area of the bar, the report stated.
“Customers cannot smoke in our bar, but are allowed to smoke in the patio,” said King. “A patio is an open courtyard under the sky according to the dictionary. We’re not allowing customers to smoke until this is settled.”
Enforcement is used as a last resort by the health department, Worley said.
“We’re hoping we don’t have to use enforcement in the future but if we continue to get complaints, enforcement is a tool we can use,” he said, “Compliance is our hope. Our wish is that patrons and managers comply and we won’t continue to get complaints.”
Erick Sundberg, who was smoking outside The Blue Fugue on Friday, said the smoking ban didn’t give smokers any choices. “Before we had choice, now we have no choice. I don’t agree with the ban, but that’s the law, and I’d rather not jeopardize myself.”