New ordinance that aims to ban smoking in Nashville bars passes first reading

New ordinance could ban smoking in Nashville bars
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 8:29 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Some Metro Council members are working to pass an ordinance prohibiting smoking cigarettes and vapes in bars.

The non-smoking bill passed its first reading at the Metro Council meeting on Tuesday, August 2.

Council members who introduced the legislation say smoking should be banned from bars to protect the musicians, bartenders, and waiters who work in bars that still allow smoking.

Austin Ray, the owner of Melrose Billiard and Parlor, has mixed feelings about the proposed ban.

“We definitely have guests who come down here who come down here every day or multiple times a week who come down to and enjoy a cocktail and a cigarette,” said Ray.

Councilwoman Ginny Welsch is one of the sponsors of the bill. She says this type of legislation is a long time overdue.

The focal point of pushing this ban is overall public health.

“We know that secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart attacks, particularly in younger people, and if we can take action to limit the negative effect of that, we want to do that because we think it’s that important,” said Welsch.

After renovating the parlor in 2017, Austin says they heavily considered banning smoking, but he says that wasn’t something

their loyal customers wanted. Now, he says time will only tell how this will impact their business if the ordinance is passed.

“I think we will see some drop off in business, but I think these levels are the playing field, so any other bars we’re competing with still allow smoking.

We will all be playing in this together, and the ones that can create a great experience and a great time will do just fine.

However, Austin says they’re open to what’s to come if the ordinance is passed.

He’s confident customers will still come out and enjoy their establishment that’s been a part of this community for 80 years.

“I think I feel relieved because the wonderful people who work behind this bar every night who are not smoking while they work won’t have to deal with smoke anymore,” said Ray.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), secondhand smoke causes nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease yearly for non-smokers.

Council Member Ginny Welsch says if this non-smoking ordinance becomes law, bars will have to hang up ‘no smoking’ signs and ensure all their customers follow that rule.

“Enforcement would come in the same way not serving alcohol to people who are 21 would come up,” Welsch said. “...people would come in and make sure this law is being followed, and if it’s not, you would be cited for that. That’s what I would imagine. As we go through more discussions with this council, there might be other things we come up with, but that’s how I imagine the enforcement to be.”

Welsch is preparing to hear from people on this non-smoking ordinance. She said similar laws have been passed in other states and have proven to help shield people from secondhand smoke without hurting business owners.

“They have found no negative impact on whether or not restaurants and bars survive openings and closings, Welsch explained. “In fact, they have all increased probably because there is widespread support for these types of smoking bans, and people are more comfortable and want to go to restaurants and bars that are non-smoking, so they aren’t putting their health at risk when they go to just have a night out on the town.”

This law would not affect cigar bars or other places where smoking is a part of their business.

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