A Metro Councilman has come up with amendments to the proposed bar and casino smoking ban he predicts will get it to "easily pass" on Wednesday.
On Monday, District 11 council member Matt Watson said if the council turns over enforcement to police instead of firefighters, more clearly lays out their expectations and gives bar owners until next June to get ready, he can get a majority vote.
From the beginning, casino operators and some bar owners have opposed the proposed ban, concerned it would cut into their bottom line, and employees have expressed worry that if business slows, it would cut into their tips.
Health officials and other hospitality workers have pointed to the increased risk of cancer and other diseases and the corresponding healthcare costs of second-hand smoke.
Both the extra time and a clearer definition of terms are meant to give bar owners a chance to prepare outdoor areas where patrons would be allowed to smoke while outlawing it inside.
"This all gets us to where we want to go — to a place … that doesn't expose people to second-hand smoke," Watson said in an interview.
That means both patrons and workers, he added.
A smoking ban failed last year, but since then, Watson replaced Ryan Heck and Barbara Freiberg replaced John Delgado on the council. The five Democratic council members have consistently supported a smoking ban, and if those two newcomers join them, the measure likely would pass.
The chances of people in Baton Rouge being able to light up cigarettes in casinos and bars a…
"I plan to vote for this ban in bars and casinos, and I will go with the amendments that Matt has proposed," Freiberg said Monday.
The councilwoman said she is glad the measure was postponed in a June meeting so everyone could figure out who would be in charge of making sure bars and casinos obey the proposed new rule.
Freiberg and Watson were both sponsors of the revived ban effort. However, when it came up two months ago, both they and Fire Chief Ed Smith questioned language in the proposal that said the ban would be enforced by fire officials.
Watson said Monday he will propose an amendment that mirrors existing rules about smoking in restaurants. Those rules place enforcement in the hands of police officers, deputies and other law enforcement.
Another amendment will define 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."
There are also provisions for dividers, security doors and other "solid physical barriers."
Watson said Republican Trae Welch has also been willing to talk about the ordinance proposal. However, Welch said Wednesday that while he's still open-minded, he also has some problems with the proposal.
Watson has suggested withholding enforcement until next June 1.
Welch said businesses need — at the very least — 365 days to raise funds and go through permitting for any new spaces as well as to figure out what effect the ban would have on their business.
"That's a got-to-have thing for me," he said.
Welch is also concerned about defining enclosed space as one with two walls.
"'Enclosed' is four walls," he said.