St. Louis Public Radio News
6:08 pm
Tue June 30, 2009

Aldermen start work on smoking ban

St. Louis, MO – A standing-room-only crowd filled a hearing room at St. Louis City Hall Tuesday to weigh in on a proposed smoking ban in St. Louis.

The current proposal from 28th ward Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, which is expected to be amended, bans smoking everywhere except outdoor patios, tobacco shops, and casino floors. It has the strong support of Mayor Francis Slay, whom Krewson echoed in pushing for the ban.

"Several years ago, I think it would have been a progressive bill," she said. "Today, just sort of something we need to get done."

Smoking is banned in the restaurants owned by the Pasta House Company, said company president Kim Tucci, and he's never seen business go down.

"We're putting people on the moon and people are still smoking," Tucci said in disbelief, though he acknowledged that most customers at his restaurants are coming to eat, not just to drink.

The city's ban does not take effect until similar legislation is enacted in the county, and it does not have the support of the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society, which want a total ban.

The exemption for casinos also infuriated 9th Ward Alderman Ken Ortmann, whose wife and daughter own the The Cat's Meow in Soulard.

"We've had our business for 14 years, we've lived here, we've paid taxes here, we work here, we survive here, we love this city," Ortmann said to applause. "The new guys come in, where's all that revenue going? Besides the taxes that the city gets, it's going down wherever Pinnacle's office is."

Bar owner Jack Larrison saw business at his saloon, Shady Jack's go up 20 percent after Illinois banned smoking in 2008. That extra business helped offset the recent economic downturn.

"I really don't care about France, I really don't care about Cuba, I really don't care about some of the other things you brought up," he said. "What I do care about is my survival."