Local bars divided on smoking measure

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

For the time being, smoking in South Dakota is part of the bars’ atmosphere, but this may not last for long.

After passing the committee, Senate Bill 83 was killed on the Senate floor on Feb. 3 in an 18-17 vote. SB 83 was a ban on smoking in all public places, including bars, casinos and restaurants with the exception of hotel rooms.

Despite the ban’s failure in the Senate, some local business owners might still remove smoking from their establishments.

“We have been smoke free on the main floor (the restaurant) for about three years, and we have been talking about making the lower level (the bar) smoke free for a long time,” said Tammy Yount, owner of local Brookings bar, Ram and O’Hare’s. “As of March 1, O’Hare’s will be smoke free.”

Yount said she is absolutely in favor of the ban on smoking.

South Dakota Senate Majority Leader Dave Knudson led the effort to pass the bill and announced his intent to reconsider the vote by which the smoking ban lost.

“There are two ways the smoking ban could still pass,” said Knudson. “It could pass if the smoking ban [House Bill 1240] passes on the House floor or if we hoghouse the smoking ban.”

“Hoghousing” is an amending process that allows the entire contents of a bill to be changed even after the bill introduction deadline has passed. It allows a bill to be amended and reconsidered in the same legislative session rather than having to wait for the next session.

“One thing that may cause people to consider the smoking ban this time is the huge number of people who voted no were absolutely shocked at the reaction of their constituents,” Knudson said.

As for the House bill, it was first read on Feb. 2 and was referred to the House State Affairs Committee. The bill was not yet scheduled for a hearing at press time.

Other than passing on the legislative floor, there are other options for how a smoking ban could be passed.

Knudson said there is “absolutely” a possibility that if either bill does not pass in session, it could be placed on the 2010 general election ballot.

“We know there’s no safe level of secondhand smoke, so we should do our best to protect ourselves against it,” said Knudson.

Gus Theodosopoulos, owner of Cubby’s Sports Bar and Grill and the 9 Bar and Nightclub in Brookings, said removing smoking from Cubby’s has had a good effect on the bar.

“If anything, our business has increased,” said Theodosopoulos. “During our dinner hour, we get more families in, and even during the night hours, more people are around.”

The 9 Bar and Nightclub currently allows smoking, but Theodosopoulos said that he would definitely consider removing it.

However, other bars in Brookings are not so in favor of the smoking ban.

“Skinner’s would never go smoke free,” said Karl Steege, manager of Skinner’s Pub. “The government should not control a business’s options on what to do with their personal property.”