Bar Owner Beats State's Ban On Smoking
FULLERTON, Calif. -- An Orange County tavern owner challenged the state's ban on smoking and won.
John Johnson, who runs Lucky John's bar in Fullerton, decided to take on California's law against smoking in restaurants and other public places because he didn't believe the state had a right to tell him how to operate his business.
"I'm basically a libertarian at heart and I resent people dictating to me in an unreasonable fashion how I'm going to run my business, and that's basically why I took this on," Johnson told CBS 2 News this week.
The bar owner was cited last year by Orange County officials for allowing patrons to smoke.
Under a 1995 law, lighting up is prohibited in indoor workplaces, with few exceptions.
Johnson's lawyers argued that the law didn't apply to the Fullerton tavern because it had fewer than five employees.
The defense attorneys cited a section of the state code that exempts some small businesses, such as offices and parking garages, from the smoking ban.
Superior Court Judge Daniel McNerney was swayed by the defense argument, declaring that the law didn't apply to Lucky John's and was fundamentally flawed because of how it reads.
Lucky John's server Laura Suzda celebrated the decision with her boss.
"It shouldn't be the government's decision where people can and cannot smoke," she told CBS 2 News.
Johnson told CBS 2 News that he's never even taken a drag on a cigarette, and he said that his argument with the ban comes down to principle.
"I'm not a proponent of smoking," the tavern owner said. "I think it's definitely a questionable activity. But everybody has that free choice they can make in their life."
Johnson isn't the first to prevail in court against the state; according to reports, several Orange County judges have ruled in tavern owners' favor, declaring the smoking ban unconstitutional.
Observers say a higher court ruling may be needed soon to clarify the law's meaning.