Bar Owners Frustrated with Proposed Smoking Ordinance

- Members of the Wichita Falls Bar Owners Association say they are getting more frustrated with the proposed smoking ordinance, which would go into effect next January if passed by the city council.

The proposed smoking ordinance originally required smokers to stay at least 20 feet away from any public place. New revisions now give places that are strictly an 18 years and over establishment a five-foot requirement for smokers.

With this proposed new smoking ban set to be discussed at the city council next Tuesday, local bar owners say they are frustrated and worried about how it would be enforced, and how it would affect their businesses.

"This ordinance I don't feel like is going to fit every bar, even the way it's written now. It doesn't fit every bar," part owner of P2, Steve Wilkinson, says.

P2 is a local bar and restaurant that is open only to customers 18 and over after 6 pm.

With revisions to the proposed smoking ordinance, customers must be 20 feet away from the door of a public place such as a restaurant, but only five feet away when operating strictly as a bar for crowds 18 years or older.

Wilkinson says this is a better rule, but still not what bar owners are looking for.

"Twenty-foot rule, you can't police that. You can't. Twenty foot out my big door I can see. Twenty foot out that back door, I can't see that. You step out that door, I can't police that," Wilkinson says.

The Bar Owners Association is pushing for a 70/30 split where if over 70 percent of what the bar sells is alcohol, then customers would still be allowed to smoke indoors.

"There are already two bars here that aren't doing too well that don't allow smoking. And we have bar owners here who own several bars and I assure you if they figure out that a non-smoking bar is profitable, they will open such a bar," Charles Oldham, the Bar Owners Association of Wichita Falls attorney says.

There is also concern regarding outdoor patios. Amy Fagan, official with the public health district, also told us a change is being made on the patio rule.

She says if the patio is five feet away from the bar, then customers will be allowed to smoke in them. However, that raises a question for some on when does a patio start, and how businesses could add a five-foot buffer zone.

The president of the Bar Owners Association will be speaking at the city council meeting on Tuesday voicing all of these concerns. There will be no vote next week, and no public input in this discussion. That opportunity will come when it is an agenda item on June 17th.

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