Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Compliance with the St. Louis City Smoking Ban

What we are telling bar owners who call us:

Any establishment that limits its patronage to those over 21 should retain the right to allow the use of a legal product on their private property. This is even more strongly true of private clubs, Union Halls, and VFW Halls. I believe ordinary citizens, and even officials with the Health Department, understand that. But a law has been passed that must be enforced to some extent. As long as any nonexempt establishment posts "No Smoking" signs and removes all ashtrays, the establishment is in compliance with this law. The St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act of 2009 does not compel any establishment to act as a police officer. Though free to do so if they wish, no owner is under any obligation to make a patron stop smoking or force a smoking patron to leave. If signs are posted and ashtrays removed, only the smoker, not the establishment, is in violation of the smoking ban. I believe such an interpretation of the enforcement provisions of the St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act of 2009 will hold up in court.

It is clear the the Board of Aldermen intended to exempt all establishments with less than 2000 sq. ft. of "people space" that sell more alcohol than food from the ordinance for five years. Having sat through the deliberations of the Board of Aldermen, it is clear they accepted the state of Missouri's definition of a bar and did not wish to impose a food percentage restriction beyond that definition of "bar". Any establishment of less than 2000 sq. ft. of people space that sells more alcohol than food should consider themselves exempt under this law.

Finally, Health Director Walker indicates that fully-enclosed tents will be counted towards people space. The St. Louis City Smoke Free of 2009 never mentions tents specifically, but does regulate fully-enclosed spaces to which the public has access. As long as any tent is not fully- enclosed on all four sides, it should not be counted toward the 2000 sq. ft. limit.