Businesses preparing for non-smoking ban to take effect

Matt Williams and Erin Frost

A statewide smoking ban will go into effect Jan. 1, 2008.

That means no lighting up in any public places, including bars – which causes big problems for local bar owners.

“My customers smoke and I have got to have a place for them,” Glass House Tavern owner Irv Gesner told The Courier in May.

Some local bars are already making plans to accommodate their smoking customers.

Mr. Lucky’s Gold Mine on Chicago Street is building an elaborate heated beer garden. Legends Billiards Bar on North Kickapoo has done the same, with 2,500 square feet devoted to the cause.

But these are huge undertakings, requiring serious financial investment. Other business owners aren’t sure what, if anything, they plan to change when the ban goes into effect.

“I’m going to just sit back and see what happens,” said Norma Edwards, owner of the OK Tavern on North McLean Street.

“I haven’t had a copy of the law and I won’t do anything until I get a copy of the law.”

Edwards said she wasn’t sure what sort of local department would enforce the state-required ban – the police, sheriff’s department or fire department.

And without people reporting smoking incidents, the ban might be difficult to enforce. Some local non-smokers also have spoken out – to say that smoking is all right with them.

Charlotte Bohn, who breathes with the help of an oxygen tank, told a reporter in May she understands the risk of frequenting smoking establishments.

“If I didn’t want to come in here (to the Glass House Tavern) and be around the smoke, I would stay home,” she said. “I used to smoke, so I am not against everybody else smoking. I think it’s my choice to be in here."

Although not a smoker herself, Edwards said the ban will cause problems at the OK Tavern for her smoking employees – and she pointed out that it’s making life difficult for some of those it claims to protect.

“I’m really going to feel sorry for my bartenders,” she said. “They say (the smoking ban) is for the workers, because they don’t want anybody to have second-hand smoke. Well, that’s ridiculous. If they didn’t want second-hand smoke then they didn’t have to come in here.”

Matt Williams and Erin Frost can be reached at the Lincoln Courier Journal


The Smoke Free Illinois Act

• The act prohibits smoking in “public places, places of employment, and government vehicles.” This includes 15 feet outside the doors of buildings. Business owners also must post “No Smoking” signs and remove ashtrays.

• Fines for individuals are between $100 and $250. For business owners, they’re at least $250 for the first violation, at least $500 for the second violation, and at least $2,500 for each additional violation within a year. Repeated violations could land a business owner in court.

• Exemptions from the act include tobacco stores, private rooms in nursing homes, and 25 percent of the rooms in a hotel.

• Illinois is the 19th state to impose a statewide smoking ban. Forty-four Illinois communities had already placed restrictions on smoking in public places when the governor signed the law July 23, according to the American Cancer Society.