Smoking Ban Fight Continues in Evansville
Ban in place as bars, private clubs sue to have it put out
The smoking ban fight may be over in Indianapolis for now, but it continues in Evansville, as it's new ban is being challenged in court.
Unlike the Indianapolis ban signed into law by Mayor Greg Ballard this week, Evansville's smoking ban contains only one exemption - the gaming floor of Casino Aztar. "The casino represents millions of dollars of revenue to the city and the county annually," said Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. "The administration and the City Council felt that it would jeopardize a very important revenue stream to the city if we did not exempt them."
Many bars and private clubs in Evansville, where smoking is no longer allowed, believe this is a double standard and have sued to have the ban struck down on constitutional grounds. "They have a gaming operation, they serve alcoholic beverages, and their patrons are allowed to smoke," said Les Shively, an attorney representing private clubs in the lawsuit. "We think this is a clear denial of equal privileges and immunities as guaranteed under the Indiana constitution."
Shively points out that some private clubs also have gaming operations, such as bingo. Winnecke says the situations don't compare because the private clubs don't provide the same amout of money to the city in taxes as the casino. For the mayor, private club or not, this is a public health issue. "There's all kinds of data out there that shows how dangerous it is to our health. Secondhand smoke - the dangers of it are documented as well. To me, it is a no brainer to improve the quality of life in our city."
The attorney representing bars in the lawsuit declined comment, but Shively says part of their case rests on private property and free association grounds. "They should have the right to decide in their private establishment, especially in their bars and such, whether their members should be able to smoke or not," Shively said.
Last month, the judge hearing the lawsuit refused to delay the smoking ban from taking effect while the case made it's way through the courts. No other court dates have been set.
MORE FROM WIBC NEWS:
» Judge Denies Injunction Against Evansville Smoking Ban (3-30-12)
» Decision Expected Soon on Evansville Smoking Ban (3-29-12)
» Evansville Passes Smoking ban, But Exempts Casino (2-14-12)