Chesterfield committee will discuss ban on smoking
Chesterfield's public health and safety committee is set to meet Thursday to discuss a "smoking gun" - whether it will recommend a ban against smoking in the city's 61 restaurants and taverns.
The meeting, which is expected to draw a large crowd of opponents and supporters, will convene at 5:30 p.m. in the Chesterfield Government Center's council chambers and probably will allow ample time for public comment, says Councilman Barry Flachsbart, 1st Ward.
Flachsbart proposed the ban earlier this year and argued that secondary smoke in restaurants and bars was a health hazard and a potential legal problem for local government. If the recommendation clears the committee and is approved by the City Council, it would be the first ban of its kind Missouri and Southern Illinois.
He acknowledged that he might not have support from the four-member committee that includes himself and council members John Nations, 2nd Ward, Michael Casey, 3rd Ward, and Charles Scheidt, 4th Ward.
"My best guess at this point is that I don't have the votes to get the full ban out of committee, but I do have the votes to get a compromise out of committee and to council," Flachsbart said.
That compromise may call for more stringent regulations on smoking and nonsmoking sections in bars and restaurants to ensure that cigarette and cigar smoke did not waft into nonsmoking areas, though he says he is skeptical that those regulations will be completely effective.
"I certainly believe that nonsmokers should have the right to go into a restaurant and not have any smoke in the air where they are eating," he said.
The meeting has prompted Joan Schmelig, executive director of the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce, to alert all restaurant and business owners and urge them to voice their disapproval.
"The chamber's position is that this will economically hurt the restaurants," she said. "To single out this community for this - it's not fair to our business people."
She says issues regarding the containment of smoke in area restaurants should have been dealt with years earlier before the large building and retail boom in Chesterfield, one of the fastest growing cities in the St. Louis region. The proposed ban also has been condemned by the Missouri Restaurant Association and numerous restaurant owners in Chesterfield. However, it has gained the support of the St. Louis chapter of the American Cancer Association and the Missouri Group Against Smoking Pollution, or GASP.
Flachsbart said he had received about 50 telephone calls, numerous e-mails and two letters regarding the proposal since it became public. Almost all of the calls have been positive, he says. The majority of the e-mails and the letters, however, have criticized the move.
He said other members of the committee have received primarily negative comments about the ban, which has given them pause about backing a full ban.
"Apparently they're not seeing the number of positive responses that I'm seeing," he said.