Federal judge upholds Indianapolis' stricter smoking ban

Ban covers bars, restaurants, bowling alleys

INDIANAPOLIS - A federal judge has ruled against bar owners who had challenged Indianapolis' stricter smoking ban.

The expanded ban went into effect last year, and includes bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and hotel rooms.

In the ruling, which was handed down Wednesday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young said the ban is constitutional and that there was no evidence it would force bars and restaurants to close.

"There is a rational basis to conclude that the smoking ordinance protects all people -- owners, employees and patrons alike -- from the harm of secondhand smoke," the ruling read. "(It) could potentially bring millions of dollars in new convention business and tourism money as the city competes for business it previously could not win."

A group of 10 Indianapolis bar owners had filed for a preliminary injunction last year to stop the ban from being enforced.

Brad Klopfenstein, founder of the Tavern League of Indiana , said bar business is down 10 percent and that the fight will go on.

"We knew getting into this lawsuit whoever won today, the other side was going to appeal this on up," Klopfenstein said. "We fully expect this to go on to the appeals court in Chicago and probably ultimately to the Supreme Court."

The Catalina Bar on East Washington Street is one of the businesses those who oppose the smoking ban contend now have less customers.

"This doesn't hurt a T.G.I. Friday's or a chain restaurant. This hurts your neighborhood tavern, your corner bar," Klopfenstein said. "Those are the ones that are really hurt by this."

Keith Smith, a nonsmoker, thinks the ban goes too far and that a better solution could be reached.

"I've been coming in bars for 35 years, and I know it's smoking going on," Smith said. "As opposed to just telling them they can't do it no more, I think they should have an option."

Klopfenstein said he thinks the ban will lead to more restrictions.

"This is an end around on making tobacco illegal," he said, adding that his group will meet regularly to plan strategy to keep fighting the ban.

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