Following last week’s Cook County Board 13-3 vote approving an ordinance that will ban smoking in most public places including bars and restaurants throughout the county, local communities will have almost a year to decide if they want to go along with the county ban or pass their own laws governing smoking.
The county ordinance goes into effect on March 15, 2007. The county smoking ban will cover all indoor public places except nursing homes and private clubs with 50 or more members that have been in existence for three years or more according to Cook County Board Commissioner Anthony Peraica, (R-Riverside) who was one of only three county commissioners to vote against the smoking ban.
The county ordinance allows local municipalities to opt out of the county ordinance if they to pass their own ordinance governing smoking. Local village officials are beginning to mull over their options.
“We are looking at it, and fortunately we have a little bit of time to decide how to react to it,” said Riverside Village President Harold J. Wiaduck Jr. “The trustees will have to make a decision whether they want to make a decision or just let the (county) law take effect.
“I haven’t heard a hue and cry for a smoking prohibition in our community. But on the other hand some individuals have quietly suggested that we look into it. The mood of the area and the country is toward stricter laws.”
Riverside Village Manager Kathleen Rush said that the village board will probably take up the issue in June.
Meanwhile, officials in both Brookfield and North Riverside predicted that their communities will follow the guidelines of a model ordinance which they expect to be developed by the West Central Municipal Conference that will be less strict than the county ordinance.
“I am not prepared to enter into a complete smoking ban that would hurt our businesses,” said Brookfield Village President Michael Garvey. “This isn’t an issue I’ve discussed with the village board, and I’d like to go get their input.
“We’re going to work together with the coalition of communities that make up the West Central Municipal Conference to develop something. None of us wants to do anything that will hurt our businesses or put them in jeopardy.”
Brookfield Village Manager Riccardo Ginex said that he expected Brookfield to enact its own ordinance by the end of the year.
In North Riverside, Village Administrator Guy Belmonte said that while it is still early, he expects that North Riverside will also follow a model ordinance that will be drafted by the West Central Municipal Conference and will opt out of the county ban.
“My personal thought is that we’ll be looking at it in the future and we’ll probably pass something of our own,” said Belmonte.
All the local officials expressed concern about enforcement of the county ordinance, saying that it would either be unenforceable or create a burden on local police.
The county ordinance calls for first time violators of the ordinance to pay a $250 fine. Fines rise to $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense.
Bars are expected to hurt the most by any smoking ban. Ellen Jean, the owner of Joe’s Saloon in Brookfield, believes that her business would be hurt severely by a smoking ban.
“I think it would have an impact,” said Jean. “It’s a bar and people come in and smoke.”
Jean also said that a smoking ban would hurt the village by reducing sales tax revenue from bars and restaurants.
“If you’re looking for revenue from sales tax, that’s where it’s going to come from,” said Jean. “If you shoot yourself in the foot, you’re going to limp.”