Bar Owners Wrestle With Allowing Smoking or Staying Smoke Free

Published 02/12 2014 06:08PM

Updated 02/12 2014 06:27PM

The Indiana Supreme Court made it's decision on Evansville's smoking ordinance. Now, Evansville bar owners have to make their own decisions.

Just hours after the Supreme Court struck down Evansville's smoking ban large because of it's exemption of Tropicana Evansville, dozens of Evansville bars owners filed for waivers to allow smoking again. Steve Alsop, the owner of the Peephole Bar & Grill in downtown Evansville, received his waiver just hours after the decision was handed down. Alsop said his bar allowed patrons to smoke later that night only to prohibit smoking on Wednesday afternoon. But as of Wednesday evening, patrons can smoke at Peephole again.

Alsop said allowing people to smoke in his bar is his decision to make and not the government's decision.

"We're an adult only establishment," Alsop said. "Evansville adults can make that decision on their own whether they want to go into a smoking establishment or not.

Alsop was one of many bar owners that sued the City of Evansville because of the smoking ban. Tuesday's decision handed down by the Indiana Supreme Court came as a pleasant surprise, Alsop said.

"It restores the choice for the business owners and lets the market decide," Alsop said. "I've told people privately that even if we win this, I might not go back to smoking. That will be my decision and my choice."

Alsop and many other bar owners now wait for a federal lawsuit to be adjudicated. The group is seeking punitive damages as part of that lawsuit, Alsop said.

"I've talked to a couple of our bartenders about how much their tips have gone down," Alsop said. He later added that many other businesses like the entertainment companies that provide his jukebox as well as taxi companies also suffered because of the smoking ban.

The group pushing for the smoking ban, Smokefree Communities, released a statement urging the Evansville City Council to 'address  the shortcomings of the current ordinance that were identified by the court.' The group wants the council to pass a ban that applies to everyone including the casino.


Since news broke Tuesday about the state Supreme Court ruling, we've been hearing from business owners on both sides of the fence. Using social media, many bars announced they would stay smoke-free. Those bars include Lamaco Bar & Grill, KC's Timeout Lounge, Doc's, Phoenix Night Club, Bokeh Lounge and Jimtown Bar.

Most of the establishments had already created outdoor smoking areas for patrons and say they'll keep things as-is to provide a healthy environment.

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