Smoking Ordinance Reaches Compromise with Bar Owners

Both sides of a heated debate over a proposed smoking ordinance that would ban smoking in all public places including bars, restaurants and parks may have come to an agreement over which businesses should enforce it and when.

The city council is expected to make a decision on the ordinance on Tuesday.

While the Wichita Falls Bar Owners Association says they are still against it, they say this compromise is better than nothing.

Smoking inside bars like the Iron Horse Pub is common but that may soon change.

John Dickinson, president of the Wichita Falls Bar Owners Association and owner of the Iron Horse Pub says his patrons should have the right to smoke.

"We don't want this ordinance," Dickinson says. "We feel like it's being imposed on us."

However, Dickinson says the compromise with the health department would grandfather bars and restaurants with separate ventilated smoking areas for two more years.

He says, "If we have to do something then the two years is probably the best case scenario."

Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District Director of Health Lou Kriedler says the two years will give businesses time to make the appropriate changes before going smoke-free.

"It gives them time to make business decisions and to really prepare to go non-smoking and it still gets us to where we want to be from a health perspective," Kriedler says. 

Dickinson says despite the two year grace period, bars owners and customers end up losing their rights.

Dickinson says, "None of us in the bar industry is happy about this at all. It's something that is being forced upon us. Nobody wants it like I said before. But, they're going to be tenacious about it. They'd be back in a year and a half like I said even if this wasn't going on."

If the ordinance passes on Tuesday, it will go into effect on July 17.

Smoking would be ban in all facilities not grandfathered in and parks.

Other facilities granfathered in include fraternal organizations, VFW halls, the country club and the bowling alley.

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