South Florida Bar Could Be Exception to Smoking Ban

By  | 

Sloppy Joe’s is an internationally-known bar in Key West. Its owners say the smoking ban left them at a competitive disadvantage because they can’t make renovations to accommodate smokers outside their historic building.

Sloppy Joe’s pushed through legislation this spring allowing bars in historic buildings to double the amount of food they can sell and still be exempt from the smoking ban.

The bill ticks off Mike Ferrara. He spent thousands of dollars bringing his non-historic establishment into compliance with the smoking ban and doesn’t think it’s fair to let one bar make its own rules.

Mike Ferrara of Cabo's restaurant says, “It almost seems like they’re trying to sneak this thing through. I can’t say anything else about that and still be civil about the whole thing.”

Bar owners who will not be getting any special treatment under the bill aren’t the only ones offended by it. Health groups say it’s a slap in the face to voters.

An overwhelming 71 percent of voters said they wanted to ban smoking in restaurants and other workplaces. Brenda Olsen with the American Lung Association says the Sloppy Joe’s bill creates a dangerous precedent that disregards the voter’s will.

Brenda says, “What we’re concerned about is that other restaurants will be able to come and claim hardship exemptions.”

Jeb Bush hasn’t signed the bill yet. Opponents hope he snuffs it out with his veto pen. We talked by phone to Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach, who sponsored the Sloppy Joe’s bill in the Senate.

Geller says the bill would block bars exempt under the historic building exception from offering children’s menus to attract families. It would also give the state critical enforcement powers to make sure the smoking ban is being followed in other establishments.

Once the governor receives the bill, he has 15 days to decide whether to sign or veto it.