Despite overwhelming public support for extending a proposed smoking ban to bars, the Denton City Council bowed to pressure from local bar owners and adopted a smoking ban that left their businesses alone.
During its work session Tuesday afternoon, the City Council learned that the city had received 45 calls supporting the ban. Less than 20 of more than 80 e-mails received also supported the ban, according to city spokeswoman Lindsey Baker. Baker told the council that many of those communiques encouraged the city to ban smoking in bars.
Business owners came out in force during the regular session Tuesday night, telling the council that they worried whether, in the current economy, their bars could survive the change.
Lloyd Banks, owner of Rockin’ Rodeo, said bars that had patios had an advantage over businesses like his. Rockin’ Rodeo is in a strip mall.
“With a smoking ban, I know my equipment will last longer, but I don’t know if my business will,” Banks said. “Can you guarantee that?”
Dusty’s owner Jennifer Gibbs, who served on the ad hoc committee that deliberated a proposed ordinance for the council, summed up the anxiety personally, saying it made her sick to her stomach.
“Since September, I’ve worried that I don’t know what’s going to happen to my business,” Gibbs said. “It’s been a rough three years and I’m not sure we’d survive the short-term effect [of a ban].”
But they were outnumbered by members of the general public, including some professional musicians, who advocated for the ban, including extending it to bars.
John Murphy, identifying himself as a resident and professional musician, rather than as the jazz studies chairman at the University of North Texas, told the council that bars are workplaces.
“Musicians deserve the same right to clean air as other employees,” Murphy said. “This discriminates against them.”
He told the council that, by excluding bars, Denton won’t be seen as progressive, but provincial. Musicians will refuse to play in facilities without a ban, and he himself has walked off jobs when the room got too smoky.
An ad hoc group of about 20 health care professionals, business owners and other community members met four times between October and December to consider model legislation.
For the most part, the council adopted the ordinance as proposed, which will ban smoking in restaurants, bowling alleys and billiard parlors.
Smoking will be permitted in bars that do not admit patrons younger than 18, and tobacco-related businesses. Smoking will also be permitted on the patios of restaurants and bars under certain conditions.
The city won’t ban smoking in private spaces, such as personal vehicles or private residences, unless they are being used for day care, adult care or health care. It would also not be prohibited in private clubs and fraternal organizations.
The ordinance allows bingo parlors three years to build a barrier in order to allow smoking and non-smoking sections. That compromise comes from a request from the one bingo hall in town that supports local nonprofits.
“About 75 percent of our customers smoke,” said Nanci Kimmey, of the North Texas State Fairgrounds.
At the request of council member Jim Engelbrecht, businesses that might enjoy an exemption can opt in, giving the full weight of the city’s enforcement authority.
The penalty for violating the ban is a $2,000 fine.
Several council members pledged to revisit the ban within the next year, including possibly providing incentives to bars to help make the transition.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
IN OTHER ACTION
During its meeting Tuesday, the Denton City Council also:
• Extended a moratorium for new gas drilling and production permits to Feb. 20
• Delayed action on the proposed renaming of the Denton Airport
• Created a tax-increment reinvestment zone to pay for infrastructure improvements on 800 acres north of Airport Road
• Accepted a $50,000 grant from the Texas Department of Transportation for airport maintenance projects
• Authorized $370,000 for emergency purchase of a landfill compactor, $188,096 for a street sweeper, $161,309 for two haul trailers, $167,529 for a vehicle GPS for the solid waste department, and $105,000 to Fastenal Co. for supplies at the Denton Distribution Center
• Approved an interlocal cooperative purchasing agreement with the city of Farmers Branch for supplies for the wastewater department
• Approved $119,205 for signage with Merje Design
• Authorized $325,000 for design and construction services with Kimley Horn and Associates for the southwest elevated storage tank project
• Awarded a $388,849 contract for a concrete and masonry fence around the Bonnie Brae Street substation
• Authorized $2.5 million for protective relay equipment, $380,000 for aluminum pipe bus, $160,000 for polymer station class arresters and $751,033 for steel transmission poles, all for Denton Municipal Electric
• Awarded a contract to Sun Life Financial for stop-loss insurance at an estimated $975,000 annually, for up to $4.9 million over five years
• Amended the 2011-12 budgetfrom $19.9 million to $20.8 million to provide for additional health insurance expenses
• Authorized an offer of $113,751 for 2.123 acres on Mayhill Road needed for landfill operations and $263,000 for 1.968 acres needed for the widening of Mayhill Road
• Accepted three non-annexation agreements: 143 acres at Teasley Lane and Southlake Drive, 298 acres at Pockrus Page and Edwards roads, and 1,154 acres at East University Drive and North Mayhill Road