Smoking ban referendum again

Radhika Garland

Persistent and unyielding efforts to lift the ban on public smoking in Appleton bars have succeeded in forcing another public referendum on the issue this Nov. 7.
The third attempt in the past two years, the effort is masterminded by a coalition of 56 bar owners under the political action group Appleton Coalition for Business Owners’ Rights.
Opponents of the ban see it as a severe disadvantage to business, while supporters point to the ban’s health benefits for the general community.
The issue was first brought to a head in April of 2005 when voters approved a far-reaching smoking ban in the workplace, including bars, restaurants and any other business with a license to sell liquor.
Many bar owners felt and still feel themselves to be at a disadvantage with neighboring bars that do not have similar restrictions.
One year later, Class B-licensed bar owners tried and failed to exempt themselves from those restrictions. Under law, a person with a Class B license may simply sell “intoxicating liquor to consumers by the glass for on-premises consumption.”
Recently, bar owners tried to capitalize on this definition in order to equate their businesses with the more precise term “stand-alone” bar, or tavern.
However, the term will not be included in the upcoming referendum because city officials recently voted against it, largely in response to protest from a local group called Clear Air Works.
Stevie Schmidt, chairman of the Clean Air Works board, criticized the stand-alone reference as “inaccurate and misleading.”
Clean Air Works was one of the key groups that first initiated discussion of the public smoking issue and circulated petitions to put the ban in operation.
“[Bar owners] are asking to bring smoking back into 42 establishments that are also licensed to serve food,” said Shawn Boogaard, Clear Air Works spokesman.
“They are putting smoking back on the menu.”
Some of the establishments referred to include the Clubhouse Bar within the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel and the Wooden Nickel Sports Bar & Grill, both large businesses located on College Ave.
Proponents of the ban use these examples to show that the ban is not only aimed at small businesses.
This point has caused opponents of the ban to backlash against supporters for portraying licensed bars as restaurants.
Rob Meyer, spokesperson for the Appleton Coalition for Business Owners’ Rights, has noted that all 56 businesses are licensed as taverns, despite what other products they may serve.
Meyer admits that voter turnout will be key in this referendum, hopefully bringing all those who had initially complained to bar owners out of the woodwork.
City Clerk Cindi Hesse rejected the first petition because it was over 400 signatures short of the desired 3,370. Eventually she certified 3,497 signatures, making the petition valid.
Appleton district alderperson Walter Kalata told The Lawrentian that he doubted the referendum would change. “At this point, everybody has their heels down in it; the public knows what it wants.