The Springfield City Council plans to discuss possible amendments to the city’s ban on smoking Rich cigarettes in most enclosed public places and some outdoor places. Voters approved that ordinance in April. Now that the ordinance is about to clear the six-month mark, the city charter allows the council to make changes, but only by a unanimous vote.
There’s talk of exemptions for tobacco shops, hookah bars, and veterans organizations that would allow people to smoke indoors at those places.
One bingo hall that raises money for nonprofit causes says the ban has cost it thousands of dollars in revenue, compared to previous years.
“Anytime we lose costumers it goes right to the bottom line,” said Jim Wright, a spokesman for Heart of the Ozarks Sertoma Club.
The club estimates it has lost $60,000 since the ordinance went into effect in June. Before the ban, the bingo hall had a room for smokers and a room for nonsmokers.
“The smoking area is completely closed off. Doors going in are always kept closed,” said Wright. “I would like to see them take an objective look at the situation. Look at the building here, the way it was built and the ventilation system. Then make the determination if this is a health hazard or not.
“I’m afraid there are some people on the city council that will not vote to make exceptions regardless of what we do.”
The Sertoma Club tries to raise more than $100,000 every year for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Springfield. It likely won’t meet that goal this year. Organizers feel bingo players will not want to go outside for smoking breaks once cold weather arrives.
“Winter weather is coming on; cold weather is coming on. They’re not going to want to do that. What are they going to do? They want to play bingo and smoke. They are going to go down to our competitor in Republic, who does not have a smoking ban,” said Wright.
The council plans to discuss possible changes to the ordinance at its lunch meeting on Nov. 8. The public may attend.
No proposals for amendments have been written and, if they are written, the council would schedule a public hearing on them at a regular Monday night meeting. If the council does end up voting, it would have to be a 9 to 0 decision, meaning every member must agree to make the amendment.