Smoking Ban Enforcement Letter Sent to Herrin Liquor License Holders

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Mike Kaan

HERRIN - The Knights of Columbus approached the Herrin City Council in August. They said they were following the smoking ban and losing money because of it, while other businesses ignored the law. What the club wanted was a letter enforcing the ban, and earlier this month that letter finally arrived.

In the letter dated September 2, 2011, Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter explains the consequences of breaking the Smoke Free Illinois Act. Any violations could result in a ticket or a possible suspension of a liquor license for at least one day.

"I heard that even before we got our letter that one of the other establishments had people put the cigarettes out or get outside with them," said Knights of Columbus Bar Manager Delmus Franklin. "They got their letter before we did."

The letter from the Herrin City Council is similar to the message Mayor Bob Butler sent to Marion bars in December 2008.

The Knights of Columbus carefully keep records on alcohol sales and estimate they've lost almost $20,000 a year. They believe the loss in sales comes from customers moving to bars that are breaking the rule and allowing indoor smoking.

"If we're all playing by the same rules, then we can compete," said Franklin.

In the early days of the law, local agencies watched businesses and looked for offenders. Eighteen days after the law into effect, the Knights of Columbus even received a complaint of their own.

"They had an inspector from the Bi-County come in and caught one of the employees smoking a cigarette," said Franklin.

But with a large area to cover, Bi-County Health admits the smoking ban is more than they can handle on their own. The department added that enforcement of the ban falls on both state and local agenices, including police.

Health Educator Carrie Eldridge said the department lacks adequate staffing "since the health department's jurisdiction covers two counties. The law can be better managed by each community."

Now that the community of Herrin is stepping up its efforts, the Knights of Columbus plan to keep an eye on their sales for any sign of change.

"Is there going to be a pick up in business or no noticeable difference?" said Franklin. "We don't know yet."

The health department also offered to help communities find better methods of enforcing the smoking ban and commended the mayors of Herrin and Marion.

Mayor Ritter said there have only been a few calls for clarification of the letter so far.
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