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Tents to count as "enclosed space" for smoking ban exemptions

(photo by Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
Big Daddy's in Soulard

By Rachel Lippmann

St. Louis – Bars in St. Louis that use tents to expand their seating area will have to include that space as they determine if they may be exempt from the city's smoking ban.

The Joint Board on Health and Hospitals on Thursday agreed with the health department's interpretation that tents should be considered enclosed spaces.

"If you have the potential to roll down the sides, it should be considered enclosed," said board member Will Ross, an associate dean at the Washington University School of Medicine.

John Vieluf, the general manager of Big Daddy's in Soulard, found the notion laughable.

"On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a big bar day, you know, it rained a lot," he said. "I was outside for two and a half hours pushing water off our patio that was coming through the tent. If water's coming in that much through the tent, it's not really enclosed. It was coming in everywhere."

Without the tents, Vieluf said, Big Daddy's would probably qualify for a five-year exemption from the ban, which is given to bars that make 75 percent or more of their revenue from selling alcohol and are smaller than 2,000 square feet. A ban on smoking would affect business at the bar, though he wasn't sure how much.

"We'll probably keep the tents up though," he said. "We still have the business, you know, on the weekends, and we can do private parties out there."

Interim city health director Pamela Rice Walker said including tents is the only way to be fair.

"You have one liquor license, you have one health permit, you're one facility," she said.

The ban in St. Louis County also includes exemptions for bars that make at least 75 percent of their money from alcohol, with no square footage limits. But Walker doesn't expect that distinction to cost city bars much business.

"Their ordinance includes some things like you have to be 15 feet from the door to smoke, which I think it going to impact patios, and ours does not have that," she said.

The health department will be sending bar owners a letter next week that includes the new rules - the ban takes effect January 2.


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