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Judge: Allegheny Co. smoking ban takes effect at midnight

Barring a last-minute action by a state appeals court, Allegheny County’s smoking ban will go into effect at midnight at bars and restaurants after a judge today declined to extend an injunction that would have permitted patrons to continue lighting up..

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Michael A. Della Vecchia ruled that bars and restaurants must comply with the smoking ban instituted Jan. 2, dashing the hopes of the owners of two Downtown restaurants that filed suit

In October, County Council voted to prohibit smoking in nearly all workplaces, including bars, restaurants and casinos. Charitable events staffed by volunteers may allow smoking, as long as no minors are present.

But on Dec. 22, in response to the lawsuit by Downtown restaurateurs — and financed by R.J. Reynolds tobacco company — Della Vecchia ruled that the ban would not apply to bars and restaurants until May 1.

Health Department spokesman Guillermo Cole said smoking will be prohibited after midnight, and complaints about smoking in bars and restaurants after that time may be filed with the department. But as a practical matter, Cole said he expects most venues to institute the ban at the start of business Tuesday.

Last month, The Lithuanian Citizens’ Society’s bingo operator was hit with a $16,250 fine for allowing smoking during its games, which are staffed by employees, not volunteers. A hearing to review the society’s appeal of that fine, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed. No other entities have been fined.

Taverns with fewer than 10 employees that receive less than 10 percent of their revenue from food sales may apply for waivers for the first two years of the ban.

As of today, Cole said 53 bars were approved for waivers, 22 were denied and 12 are still pending.

The Allegheny County Health Department has granted 53 exemptions to the smoking ban to bars and social clubs that employ fewer than 10 people and make less than 10 percent of their revenues from food. For a list of establishments granted waivers, visit www.achd.net/smokingban/waiver.html .


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