By Rachel Lippmann
St. Louis – A ban on smoking in St. Louis city is one step closer to the mayor's desk.
In a debate that lasted more than three hours and featured several procedural snarls, aldermen failed to remove an exemption for casinos from the ban. But they did increase the size of small bars that will be exempt from the ban for five years.
A final vote on the legislation is likely to happen next week, but it will not take effect unless a ban is also approved in St. Louis County. Residents there will vote on the measure November third. Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, the city's sponsor, says she is confident it will be approved.
"I think the county voters are all smart folks, and I think they understand the detriment of secondhand smoke," she said.
Opponents of the exemptions say because the county ban exempts small bars completely, the city will be put at a competitive disadvantage.
"I don't have a dog in this fight," said Alderman Stephen Conway. "In all the years that I've been down here I've never tried to see us put one of our colleagues out of business, or two of our colleagues. Everybody's rush to judgment to put people out for some cause."
Alderman Kenneth Ortmann's family owns the Cat's Meow in Soulard. And Alderman Joe Vollmer owns Milo's on the Hill.
The Board is expected to send the measure to Mayor Francis Slay next week - he is a supporter.