Debate Rages On Controversial Ordinance Regarding Smoking Ban

Monday, February 18th 2013, 12:05 am
By: News 9

By Heather Hope, News 9

Oklahoma City -- A bill that would give cities the right to ban smoking everywhere will be debated at the Capitol on Monday.

State Sen. Kyle Loveless says he wants to help businesses that allow smoking. He plans to add an amendment that would "grandfather" these restaurants in, so that if their local governments ban smoking, their establishments wouldn't be penalized.

But some members of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, say they would prefer smoking be banned across the board or not at all.

Restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings on Northwest Expressway operate like two businesses under one roof. A barrier separates smoking and non-smoking customers. Senate Bill 36 would let each city and town decide whether to smoke or not to smoke in public places. 

"And that's why I'm wanting to basically amend the bill that's coming up tomorrow, so that those establishments, like Cattlemen's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Louie's, those that have been playing by the rules don't get penalized just automatically when this thing gets passed," says Loveless.

Right now, state law prohibits Oklahoma municipalities from passing local smoke-free ordinances. But some business owners hope the bill fails.

"We think it's unreasonable to have a different set of rules in different communities and municipalities within one metro area," says Ed Lynn, owner of Buffalo Wild Wings on Northwest Expressway.

Lynn owns three Buffalo Wild Wings and two Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill restaurants in different cities and says it could hurt his business if each of those cities has a different smoking ordinance.

"Just  think how confusing it would be if there was a different hold and carry law or alcohol ban for each neighboring city," Lynn says. "How do we train our employees if the rules for each establishment are different? Also, our loyal customers could jump ship from town to town."

Lynn says he is concerned about what might happen if a couple of those municipalities outlaw smoking and others do not. Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett support this Senate bill, and are urging legislators to pass it.

"Tomorrow is going to be a pretty good showdown to see where people believe on local control," Loveless says.

That showdown begins Monday at 10:30 a.m. when an eight-member Senate committee will vote on it. If it passes, the bill goes on to the full Senate, then on to the house and then the governor can sign it.