Saturday, February 13, 2010

Smokers in bars may get ticketed (Article)

http://www.caller. com/news/ 2010/feb/ 12/police- to-start- ticketing- smokers-in- bars/

CORPUS CHRISTI — The grace period has expired for those who ignored the city’s ban on smoking in bars, Police Chief Troy Riggs said.

“We need to take it seriously,” he said Friday afternoon as happy hour approached. “There has been plenty of knowledge out there about this. There’s no warning period needed.”

Since the ban took effect in June, smokers caught lighting up in bars, pool halls and bingo halls received only warnings. Although police had the power to ticket offenders, no citations were issued.

The ban and warnings didn’t stop some people from lighting up in bars. Some bar owners complied with the law by posting ‘no smoking’ signs, but gave patrons drink glasses or cups for their ashes.

The Caller-Times called attention to the situation in an article Feb. 2, and on Thursday, Riggs directed officers to issue citations during their routine checks on bars. Both the smoker and the bar can face fines.

Police officers will start ticketing people who are smoking inside bars during routine bar checks.

“I don’t want to take away an officer’s discretion,” Riggs said. “They need to know that (citations) are an option. The City Council thought it was important enough to pass it. We need to enforce it.”

Bars that violate the ordinance by providing ash trays could also face fines and routine offenders will be reported to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which regulates liquor licences.

The police department will also work with the health department to drop in on each bar to check for compliance.

The ban, which the council approved in January 2009, expanded a previous ban on smoking in restaurants to include bars, pool halls and bingo halls.

The smoking ban took effect June 15, three months later than initially planned, after business owners asked for a delayed start so they would have more time to build patios for smokers. A petition aiming to overturn the ban failed to attract enough signatures of registered city voters to force the issue to a citywide vote.

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