Vice Squad
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Fighting Florida's Public Smoking Ban

We mentioned a couple of days ago the tendency of restaurant and bar owners in towns that enact public smoking bans (over the owners' objections) to support state-level bans. But what do you do if you are opposed to a public smoking ban, own a restaurant, and your state enacts (indeed, puts into its constitution) a ban on smoking in any bar/restaurant that receives more than 10% of its revenue from food? If you are Michael Pace, Sr., you continue to allow smoking in your restaurant, and you fight the ban in court. And you might just win.

One tack you take is to note that the law does not make it clear what steps a proprietor must take when patrons light up. Nor is there a provision for fining a business, as opposed to an individual. You also question the premise of the ban: if it is about employee health, then why are bars that sell little or no food exempt?

So far, an administrative judge has sided (preliminarily) with Mr. Pace. But his victory may prove Pyrrhic, as the state legislature might respond to any adverse ruling by closing the "loopholes" that Pace identified.

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