Council To Consider
Lifting Bar Exemption
But will the sequel be as high octane
as the original public brouhaha?
By Richard Davis
TFW Staff Writer
The issue of smoking in public places is coming back before the Fayetteville City Council. Ward 1 council member Adella Gray officially announced she will bring forward her proposed amendment at the next council meeting to remove the exemption for bars, effectively banning smoking in all workplaces within the city of Fayetteville.
Those who witnessed the first go-round in 2003 will recall endless hours of public comments, numerous newspaper articles, debates, television broadcasts, proposed variations on the ordinance and more before the council passed the smoking ban 5-3. Right before that decision, then-Mayor Dan Coody cast the tie-breaking vote opposing a measure that would have sent the matter directly to Fayetteville residents.
Of course it didn’t end there. Opponents gathered enough signatures to take the issue to a public referendum, pitting Smoke-Free Fayetteville and Free Choice Fayetteville on opposite sides. My ex-wife was spokeswoman for Smoke-Free at the time so I was treated to an inside look at some very heated arguments from both spectrums. Before it was over, there were accusations of fraud, claims of ethics violations, hurled insults, veiled threats, angry words, hurt feelings, accusations of stealing campaign signs, media bias, dogs and cats living together and even each side accusing the other of being big-money patsies (Johnson & Johnson via the nonprofit Robert W. Johnson foundation on the Smoke-Free side and big tobacco — duh — on the other).
Will the debate be as loud and vigorous as it was last time? Probably not. Since that time, the smoke-free issue hit the state level, and now, only 21 and older establishments in Arkansas can allow smoking. The number of businesses it’ll affect is far smaller than the 2003 ordinance, and restaurants may well support the ordinance this time with the notion that removing the exemption for bars will help level the playing field for alcohol sales. I’m not making a right or wrong judgment call on the issue, but if I were a betting man, I’d put money on the ordinance passing.
A little bit more background: Mayor Lioneld Jordan, an alderman at the time, voted for the 2003 ordinance. Don Marr, the mayor’s chief of staff, was the alderman at the time who proposed the ordinance. Current- and then-council member Brenda Thiel also voted for the ban.
No council member voiced any opposition at the agenda session Tuesday (April 26). No one who voted against the 2003 ordinance is currently serving on the council.