Smoking ban constitutional, judge says
It was an unlucky morning for Lucky John's bars Friday, when a superior court judge changed his mind about an earlier ruling and said a statewide smoking ban appears to be constitutional.
The reversal put John Johnson, who owns four Lucky John's bars in Orange County, in a bit of a quandary: replace the signs that read "smoking permitted" at his establishments with "no smoking" signs, or leave things as they are.
Until Friday, Johnson had operated under Judge Daniel McNerney's May ruling that the law unconstitutionally targets bars because they don't qualify for an exemption that allows smoking in some workplaces with five or fewer employees.
"We don't know where to go to get any true satisfaction here," said Johnson, a nonsmoker. "We're developing this for appeal."
Friday's pretrial hearing at the North Justice Center in Fullerton involved citations given at Lucky John's in Fullerton to a bartender who was smoking and to Johnson for allowing it. The state smoking ban took effect in bars in 1998. It prohibits smoking in enclosed workplaces to protect employees from secondhand smoke.
Johnson and his attorney, Ron Davis, said Friday's ruling all but ensures they'll lose the case in trial court.
But they're looking at the bigger picture: getting the issue before a federal or state Supreme Court in an effort to get the law overturned.
The American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society issued a statement Friday hailing McNerney's decision "as a triumph for the health and well-being of all workers."
A pretrial hearing is set for Nov. 30. Violations of the law carry fines of $100 and up.