Some local bar owners want smoking ban reversed - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Some local bar owners still fighting smoking ban

The Evansville smoking ban could be reversed if a group of local tavern owners have their way.

Attorney Charlie Berger filed a case that said the smoking ban violated individual businesses from operating under equal protection of the law. The case went to trial and lost. Then Berger appealed the case and lost again.

He filed a transfer to get the case from the Court of Appeals to the Indiana Supreme Court and that court has agreed to hear the case. It's a small victory for several local businesses.

"We're losing probably at least $10,000 to $15,000 a month," says Jerry Blake with the VFW Post 1114.

Evansville's VFW Post 1114 has more than 2,000 members, the second largest in the world. But officials say the city smoking ban has cut revenues, making it harder to operate and to donate back to the community. 

"We felt like our membership should have the say so whether we're going to be smoking or non-smoking. Now our dining room that's open to the public has always been non-smoking. The only two places you could smoke was our bar and bingo," Blake says.

The VFW has joined a lawsuit alleging the city smoking ban violates the club's constitutional rights. VFW officials say the exemption of Casino Aztar, now Tropicana, is unfair.   

"If you want total exemption, you include Casino Aztar. We don't have any problem with that, but when you pull Casino Aztar out because you needed the money, the revenue in from them, then we feel like you were being biased," Blake says.

The VFW is flexible on finding a resolution.

"Either include Casino Aztar in on the smoking ban or overturn it and go back to state ordinance, which we're happy with," Blake says.

Attorney Charlie Berger represents the VFW and several local taverns, like Peephole and Harbor Bay. Berger says he isn't willing to compromise quite as much. 

"There is no request that Casino Aztar not to be able to do business the way they have been doing it, and nor was there a request for that in the trial court," Berger says.

Berger says depending on which desk the case lands on, the case could be heard in as little as a month. But he says he's seen cases sit for five years, so there's no standard timeline for these cases.

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