Starting next June, smokers must go outside of bars and casinos to light up .

On Wednesday, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council passed a compromise ban that will outlaw smoking inside bars and casinos but give them 10 months to prepare.

The issue was a fait accompli after new Republican council members Barbara Freiberg and Matt Watson said earlier this week they would join their Democratic colleagues to vote for a ban with amendments Watson authored.

Nevertheless, a packed house came to watch the debate, with two speakers in particular firing up the smoke-free crowd.

Joe Hall, owner of Phil Brady's, said most of the weekend shows at his bar have been non-smoking for the last decade, and more people turn out, making him more money. Turning to face the crowd, he told the gallery that people go to bars and casinos to drink and gamble; they'll put up with going outside to light up.

George Newman was quieter in his comments, as he had to speak through a throat ventilator. He smoked when he was young and said he's paid for it with multiple surgeries. Newman said he wanted the Metro Council to see what smoke did to him before they held their vote.

Others spoke on the deleterious effect on heart health and other maladies linked to second-hand smoke. Entertainers said they didn't want to make money at the expense of their health. One activist pointed out the future is trending toward less smoking, since 68 percent of millennial gaming enthusiasts prefer to gamble in non-smoking establishments.

A few people came to speak against the measure, though.

Casinos stand to lose 10 to 15 percent of their revenue "and the job force that goes along with that," if smoking is banned indoors, warned Wade Duty, executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association.

If the ban made financial sense for casinos, they would have made the switch already; but it doesn't, and when they lose money, the city-parish loses those tax revenues, Duty said.

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson said business owners should be free to ban smoking if they wish, but the free market should determine whether others should. It doesn't make sense to ban smoking piecemeal — a parish here, a city there — because it creates an uneven playing field, he said, adding that any smoking ban should come from the state legislature. The ban passed Wednesday does not apply to the cities of Baker, Central and Zachary.

Watson's amended smoking ban generally addresses three points:

  • It defines an enclosed space as "no more restrictive than … all space between a floor and a ceiling that is bounded on at least two sides by solid walls, exclusive of doorways and windows."
  • It delays enforcement until June 1, 2018. Both measures are designed to give bar owners time to build outdoor seating areas where patrons would be allowed to smoke.
  • It turns over enforcement to law enforcement agencies, since an earlier iteration of the ban called for fire departments to keep everyone honest. 

Councilman Trae Welch led an effort to streamline the language by defining an enclosed space as one bound by four walls. He also wanted to give business owners a full year to prepare before enforcement would begin.

Councilmen Chandler Loupe went along with that plan, and Watson himself voted in acquiescence. However, the rest of the Council voted against.

When the Watson amendments went up to a vote, Watson and Freiberg joined Democrats Chauna Banks, LaMont Cole, Donna Collins-Lewis, Erika Green and Tara Wicker, who have long supported smoking bans.

Republicans Buddy Amoroso, Dwight Hudson, Loupe, Welch and Wilson voted against the ban.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.