A Civil District Court judge has rejected a request by dozens of New Orleans bars and restaurants for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the city from enforcing a ban on smoking in indoor spaces that went into effect in April.
In her order, Judge Robin Giarrusso said she found no support for the establishments’ argument that the law should be voided because the City Council used improper procedures in approving it.
Giarrusso said a second argument, that the ordinance should be stricken because it is “substantively vague,” also lacked support.
The bars and restaurants sued the city last month, arguing that the council did not receive a required fiscal note in time to properly consider the financial impact of the smoking ban on bars and casinos.
The note was presented to council members on the same day they voted on the measure. The bars’ attorney, Thomas Cortazzo, argued Tuesday that the City Charter requires such information to be presented before a matter is considered.
Cortazzo also argued that the ordinance lacked sufficient detail, such as whose job it is to enforce the ban. He raised the question of whether a small bar would need to have a manager on duty every day to tell patrons to put out their cigarettes.
Cortazzo told Giarrusso on Tuesday that the law should be overturned and the council ordered to reconsider it.
In her order, Giarrusso said her interpretation of the City Charter allows for a fiscal note to be submitted up until the votes are cast. “The court finds that the council timely received and considered the fiscal note,” she wrote.
As for the claim of vagueness, she said: “There is nothing vague as all the terms (in the law) either have a settled meaning in law or are understandable by any ordinary citizen.”
The lawsuit, which named Mayor Mitch Landrieu and members of the City Council as defendants, was filed by dozens of French Quarter bars and restaurants, including Pat O’Brien’s, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop,Tropical Isle, Broussard’s, Kingfish and Cafe Maspero. Although restaurants were already covered by a state ban on smoking, several joined the suit to support their fellow French Quarter businesses.
When it was filed in April, the lawsuit also included Harrah’s New Orleans Casino as a plaintiff, but the company asked to be dismissed from the case last month.
The Smoke-Free Air Act makes it illegal to smoke in the city’s bars and casinos, with the exception of existing cigar and hookah bars.
“The smoke-free ordinance is an important public health measure that will save lives and improve health outcomes,” Landrieu said in a statement released in response to Giarrusso’s ruling. “We have been incredibly pleased by the outpouring of support we’ve received for the ordinance, and we are grateful to both residents and employers for their help and cooperation in its implementation.”