Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Bar owners sue to stop smoking ban

The Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio - Bar and restaurant owners who say the toughest smoking ban in the state has cut into their business have filed a lawsuit to stop the ordinance.

The group says the law is unconstitutional because it amounts to an uncompensated government takeover of private property.

"These people are going to lose a substantial sum of money," said Richard Kerger, an attorney representing the group.

He said the city compensates those who lose money just as it did when it used eminent domain to acquire land for a downtown ballpark and a new auto plant.

A federal judge Tuesday turned down the group's request to issue a temporary restraining order that would stop enforcement of the smoking ban.

U.S. District Court Judge James Carr also scheduled a hearing for next week on the lawsuit, which was filed Friday.

The ordinance took effect in August and bans smoking in most restaurants, bars and bowling alleys unless they have a separately ventilated smoking lounge.

The city believes the public interest in good health outweighs the concerns raised by the bar and restaurant owners, said Adam Loukx, one of its attorneys.

"The health concerns are real," Loukx said. He said similar laws in other states and cities have withstood legal challenges.

Kerger said city leaders exceeded their authority because the ordinance is more strict than a state law governing smoking in public.

Arnie Elzey, owner of Arnie's Eating & Drinking Saloon, said his business is down about 20 percent since the smoking ban took effect.

"Some of us are losing money and we're seeing money go to the suburbs. This is our last choice," Elzey said.

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