Amendments proposed to city’s smoking ordinance
by Jennifer Cohron
Oct 19, 2011 | 4159 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A sign on the door of Gabby’s diner calls on smokers to buy their cigarettes outside of Jasper, which recently passed a smoking ordinance. - Photo by: David Lazenby
A sign on the door of Gabby’s diner calls on smokers to buy their cigarettes outside of Jasper, which recently passed a smoking ordinance. - Photo by: David Lazenby
Local business owners spoke out against a new smoking ordinance at the Jasper City Council meeting on Tuesday after several amendments were proposed that would make it even stricter.

Greenhorn Saloon owner Matt Craig said he lost about 20 percent of his customers after he began enforcing the ordinance and that some people want him to the turn the bar into a private club to get around it.

However, city attorney Russ Robertson said the definition of private clubs has now been refined to exclude for-profit businesses and that club owners have to meet certain guidelines in order to allow smoking.

“I wrote this to make clear that a for-profit enterprise cannot simply start calling itself a private club and skirt this restriction,” Robertson said.

Mayor Sonny Posey told Craig that it is normal for bar owners to lose some customers after a smoking ban is passed but that he should see a 9 to 10 percent increase in business after two or three months.

Charlie Waits, owner of Harrison’s, said some small business owners won’t be able to wait that long.

“What if you have two or three waitresses with children who will be out of work because of the decline in patrons to your establishment?” Waits said.

Waits added that in a time that the city is facing a budget crunch, it is losing revenue from bar customers who are staying home and smokers who have organized a cigarette boycott in Jasper.

Waits also objected to a change proposed on Tuesday that would require outdoor smoking areas to be 15 feet from an enclosed space rather than the initial 10.

In addition, he pointed out that some business owners in town are not following the law.

“They’ve been waiting on a letter. So if we’re going to have it, there needs to be even enforcement,” Waits said.

Robertson said a business owner who permits smoking or a person who smokes in a public place today is subject to prosecution.

Jasper Police Chief Connie Rowe said that officers in her department are still educating local business owners about the law and that she has asked permission to issue warnings prior to citations.

“We’re going to enforce the ordinance, but we’re going to be very reasonable about it and work with folks as much as we possibly can,” Rowe said.

The amendments that were introduced on Tuesday will be voted on by the Council at a later date.

In other action from the meeting, the Council:

•passed budget amendments totaling approximately $550,000 following a nearly one hour and a half discussion of the city’s finances. Council members also expressed the need for a work session this week to continue the conversation.

•amended the city’s animal control ordinance after several months of debate on the issue. The new legislation affects vicious animals but does not target specific breeds.

•rezoned land located on Birmingham Avenue from single family residential to affordable housing for the purpose of placing a manufactured home. The Council also rezoned recently annexed property near the intersection of White House Road and Carl Cannon Boulevard from municipal reserve to I-22 business corridor for the purpose of future commercial development.

•set the cost for nuisance abatement for several properties on which houses have been torn down.

•agreed to contract with RiverTree Systems for auditing services.

•adopted a resolution declaring certain items unneeded and allowing for their disposal.

•approved a parade permit for the annual Veterans Day parade on Nov. 5.

•recognized local seniors who placed at the State Masters Games.