Yankton Smoking Ban Issue Gets KELO Treatment

KELO-TV did a follow-up Friday on a story I’ve followed closely about local disagreements over the smoking ban:

Lighting Up Loopholes

By Ben Dunsmoor
Published: February 4, 2011, 10:04 PM

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YANKTON, SD – Smoking in South Dakota bars, restaurants and casinos is illegal. In Yankton, some bar owners are holding each other accountable for following the new rules.

When South Dakota’s smoke-free law took affect, it cut off smoking inside cold-turkey and sent smokers out in the cold. But even though it’s an inconvenience, inside Boomer’s bar in Yankton, they aren’t holding any punches when it comes to holding businesses accountable for the ban.

“To me, a law is a law though. It says smoking is prohibited in public places, so I don’t know why that seems so hard to follow,” Boomer’s manager Kim Braunesreither said.

Right after the ban took affect, Braunesreither started hearing rumblings about people lighting up inside the Tobacco Road smoke shop and casino in Yankton.

“We found out they were allowing people to smoke in there,” Braunesreither said.

“They had information that we had an establishment that was not following these guidelines,” Yankton Police Chief Brian Paulsen said.

So Boomer’s and several other establishments went to the Yankton Police. In November and December, a half-dozen complaints were filed against Tobacco Road, but police say the business never violated the law.

“Legislatively, the statute says that the bar owner only has to advise people about the new ordinance. That smoking wasn’t allowed in the establishment. What was happening is they were notifying them and that takes the bar owner completely out of the equation because they have met their statutory requirement,” Paulsen said.

Tobacco Road was telling people not to smoke inside, but people were lighting up any way.

“The liability falls down on the smoker themselves,” Paulsen said.

The staff at Boomer’s says it’s all happening because of a poorly written law.

“It’s very vague. I think there are a lot of loopholes in it that people are trying to find,” Braunesreither said.

Other bars in Yankton say they’re not trying to cause trouble; they just want to make sure everyone is following the law so there is a level playing field when it comes to smoking.

“I’m not trying to be a vigilante of any sort. But if I do hear it’s happening, I do try to check it out and follow up on it because there’s other businesses that are affected by that. And we’re all in this for the same reasons, to make a living and try to make our patrons comfortable,” Braunesreither said.

Police say other bars and restaurants can actually help them enforce the law.

“They can put more pressure on than law enforcement because, again, once they’ve notified the smoker, they’ve met their statutory requirements and they can still run a business. It’s the smoker themselves that are going to have to pay that fine,” Paulsen said.

Even with that, Braunesreither hopes bars can be held more accountable if smokers are found lighting up inside.

“That if people are not going to follow it that to would affect their license or something to that affect, so there is some sort of punishment for blatantly disobeying the law,” Braunesreither said.

Because if smokers are found disobeying the ban, it can have an affect on the bottom line for other businesses.

“If we have to follow it, I think everyone should have to follow it,” Braunesreither said.

Yankton Police say no one has filed a complaint about people smoking inside Tobacco Road since the beginning of the year. We contacted Tobacco Road but they did not want to be interviewed for the story.

© 2010 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.

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