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County going smoke-free
Ban in restaurants, bars, bowling alleys begins next March

Thursday, March 16, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Josh Noel

After serving drinks until 4 a.m. and spending two more hours cleaning up Wednesday morning, the staff at the Coach House Bar and Grill near Roselle didn't head for bed.

Bleary-eyed in their black biker jackets, the bar employees were among the packed house that watched the Cook County Board pass an ordinance that will end smoking in most public places, including bars, restaurants and bowling alleys, on March 15, 2007.

Though no fans of the ban, the Coach House staff was relieved. The initial version of the ordinance would have gone into effect in 60 days, which they said would have killed their business.

"A year gives us time to sort things out," said Jim Matsas, 30, who owns the bar.

Asked what changes might keep a bar afloat when cigar ette smoke can no longer sail through the air, he smiled and said, "Serve breakfast."

The revised ban was approved 13-3 after its sponsor, Commissioner Mike Quigley, acknowledged support wasn't there for the original proposal. The start date turned out to be the most contentious issue as Quigley spent Tuesday night and Wednesday shepherding a compromise.

Weary, but vibrant after the vote, he said he was frustrated the ban won't take root for a year but is glad the onus to change policy now falls on smokers, not health advocates.

"They'll have to be out there selling death," he said. "I think that'll be difficult."

Close to 115 cities, towns and villages will be affected by the county ban but can opt out by passing their own ordinance. Unincorporated areas of Cook County, where the Coach House Bar and Grill sits, will be required to adhere to the ban.

Officials from several municipalities said they probably would start looking into their options soon, inevitably leading to public discussions weighing public health against the economic well-being of bars and restaurants.

"I think everybody supports good health, and there's no question that smoking is not good for you," said Gary Mack, a Rosemont spokesman. "But everyone is well aware of the perceived economic implications."

Without a statewide ban to level the playing field, several officials said, they might act based on what laws their neighbors pass.

"If we all jump off the cliff together, everything's fine," said Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki. "If some don't jump, then there's a problem. We don't want to put our restaurants and merchants at a disadvantage and have people going to neighboring towns."

The issue is simpler to many business owners who say their business will plummet. Louie Mendicino, who manages his family's Berwyn martini bar and jazz club, Olive or Twist, called the ban "horrible." He said he wouldn't mind the ban if surroundi ng towns were bound to it, but he added he won't wait to find out who passes ordinances. He plans to lobby Berwyn's power brokers.

"We get a lot of politicians in here," he said. "Hopefully we can work some magic."

Terry Luby, owner of Luby's Pub and Steakhouse in Tinley Park, said he worries about the ban because he is a mile from the edge of Cook County.

"You can walk to Will County and smoke all you want," he said. "It'll impact us a lot here.

Some County Board members said the ban went too far too fast.

Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman said she supported the ban but proposed a two-year wait to minimize the impact on business. She voted against the ordinance Wednesday.

"Disagreeing with the smoking ban is like disagreeing with the White Sox or apple pie," she said. "The issue is about implementation."

Supporters of the ban were pleased--delay or no delay.

"If the board believed there had to be more of a delay to get the ri ght amount of support, fine," said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association's Chicago office. "It's still better than Chicago's."

Last year, Chicago passed a similar ordinance that doesn't go into full effect for two years. The city, along with a handful of other cities that have already approved smoking bans, are exempt from the county ordinance.

Residents of nursing homes were spared from the ban. Acknowledging that nursing home rooms are not public places, Quigley backed off from the original proposal to ban smoking in such places, a relief to a handful of residents from Thornton Heights Terrace in Chicago Heights, which caters to the elderly and people with mental illness.

"We have great activities and meals, but we don't have much else to enjoy," said Margaret McKay, 52, a Thornton Heights Terrace resident. "We want to smoke. It makes us feel good."

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Suburban Cook County bars, restaurants and virtually all other indoor workplaces have a new smoking ban set to hit next year.
County commissioners voted 13-3 Wednesday to approve a ban that mandates buildings be smoke-free unless a local government has its own version of a smoking ban.
There are more than 100 Cook County cities and villages that have no such ban.
The county ban, which takes effect in March 2007, won't cover nursing homes or private clubs, but won't exempt bars or places that install smoke filters.
COOK COUNTY'S BAN
Cook County approved a smoking ban Wednesday that will impact bars, restaurants and many other indoor public places in more than 100 suburban communities. It takes effect March 15, 2007, and:
Impacts any Cook County town that doesn't have some kind of smoking ordinance.
Exempts nursing homes, private clubs such as the Elks, Moose and VFW lodges, and country clubs.
Makes no allowances for bars to install anti-smoke machines, and it does not allow for separate smoking areas within some bars, as the Chicago smoking ban does.
Comes on the heels of the county balancing its $3 billion budget by raising its cigarette tax to $2 per pack.
The ban's chief sponsor, Commissioner Mike Quigley, wanted it put into effect in 60 days, but relented to other commissioners.
He said those commissioners pushing the delay are responsible for more "death and illness."
In spite of a 12-month wait before it kicks in, Commissioners Liz Gorman, Joan Murphy and Tony Peraica still voted against it -- with Gorman the most vocal. Though the gallery was full, no one spoke against the ban.
Hadn't read proposal
Gorman insisted she was "blindsided" by the measure, even though she sat through the Monday committee meeting where it was discussed and voted to approve it then.
She said later that she hadn't read the bill, believing it was identical to the city's smoking ban.
But most other commissioners said they've known of the proposed ba n since it was introduced on the heels of a city ban last year, and most commissioners praised it.
"When you're asleep at the switch, this is what you get," Quigley said. "From now on, I'll start highlighting the important things."
Gorman has proposed some amendments, easing the impact of the ban, which she expects to be discussed in committee before it kicks in next year.
She represents a large chunk of unincorporated areas, where bars and restaurants will have no choice but to comply.
'Out there selling death'
In addition to unincorporated areas, the ban affects all but about 14 communities which have already passed some kind of restriction -- though others are now expected to quickly move with their own plans.
Quigley said public-health advocates will help push the idea that any move away from the county's stringent bill means those leaders are "out there selling death."



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