County council approves exemptions to proposed smoking ban
By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU
Clayton, MO – An indoor smoking ban proposal in St. Louis County took another step forward Tuesday night. Council members voted 4-3 to exempt bars and casino gaming floors from the proposed ordinance, and they decided to delay a final vote on the issue until Aug. 18.
Approval by the council would send the measure to County Executive Charlie Dooley, who has not indicated whether he'll sign it. In past years, Dooley has said he supports a statewide smoking ban, but not one on the local level. Dooley's approval would put the proposal before St. Louis County voters in November.
The proposed exemptions for bars and casinos are controversial. Supporters of a strict smoking ban want no exemptions. But Councilwoman Barbara Fraser said they are a necessary compromise.
"I have said, and I continue to say I would love to have a bill with no significant exemptions. Unfortunately, it did not pass," she said.
Restaurant and bar owner Chris Melton said it's already tough to meet a requirement that 50 percent of Sunday sales must be in food. Melton said the carve-outs will make that nearly impossible, forcing him to close on Sundays and lay off three employees.
"I'm completely sympathetic and empathetic to the casinos and the other exceptions that you have, but the fact is, that is very, very unfair," he said. "There's a target on the back of my small business because you're worried about those institutions and the money they bring in."