Police begin effort to ticket bar owners who allow smoking
A year after the passage of the Smoke Free Illinois Act, patrons still smoking in bars may have to finally put an end to their puffing.
Police have taken initiative to ticket bar owners and bartenders who still allow smoking. The citations are part of a city ordinance that existed long before the statewide smoking ban ever saw Springfield.
“Some cities have their own anti-smoking ordinances, we don’t have them in Peoria,” said Peoria Police Officer Scott Jordan, the liquor investigator for the city. “We have to work under the state law, and the Department of Health hasn’t given us the tools to enforce it, so we have to enforce it under the city liquor ordinance which allows us to cite for illegal activity.”
Jim Rieman, the owner of Basket Case located on Main Street, said since the recent enforcement, the bar has become “100 percent smoke free.”
Rieman said he tried to comply with the smoking ban when it was passed last year, but he wasn’t completely successful.
“It was difficult because some people are just not going to step outside and smoke and they are going to go to a different bar, and we lost business because of that,” he said.
Jordan said Peoria police have received complaints similar to Reiman’s after the initiative began.
He said most bars enforced the law after the smoking ban was passed, but some of the smaller bars passed under the radar.
“The real problem is in the bars,” Jordan said. “We all know that everybody follows it, except when you get into bars – that’s where the issue is.”
About 95 percent of bars enforce the law now, he said.
Senior English education major Justine Palmisano said she has only encountered smokers in one bar in Peoria. She said before Winter Break, she was able to smoke in the bar but hasn’t been back since.
“Since the smoking ban, I’ve been pretty conscious of assuming I can’t smoke in a bar unless I see other people smoking,” she said.
She said she noticed most bars followed the smoking ban after it was passed last year.
Jordan said he doesn’t have the resources to cite individuals for smoking, only those in charge of bars.
“We know what’s required, but we don’t have the actual means to handle it,” he said. “We don’t have tickets, we don’t know how to set courts dates.”
And although Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill in early February that was meant to ease confusion about the smoking ban, Jordan said police are still approaching the issue through the city ordinance.
“Control officers … would go in there and there would be patrons smoking in front of the officers blatantly … even though it’s state law, so they started writing tickets,” Jordan said.
He said the initiative isn’t a “crackdown” because police are not spending extra money or sending more officers out to patrol bars for smoking.
“If you’re an employer and someone’s smoking a cigarette and you don’t do anything about it, you’re subject to getting a ticket,” he said.
He said in the past, police have used the same ordinance to cite people for performing other illegal activities.
The punishment for a citation includes a $200 fine for the bartender or whoever is in charge of the bar at the time the ticket was issued. The owner of the bar must also appear before the city’s Liquor Commission, and he or she will receive a fine.
A bar’s liquor license may be suspended or revoked, but Jordan said that is not very likely.