Smoking in beer gardens off limits?

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Lighting up in an outdoor beer garden soon might get smokers ticketed.

A committee of lawmakers has approved a rule change sought by the Illinois Department of Public Health that appears to snuff out the possibility of having a legal smoke in an outdoor portion of a bar or restaurant.

The change approved by the state’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules on Aug. 11 essentially puts the Smoke Free Illinois Act in effect in any public place with both a ceiling and floor.

State health department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold on Thursday stopped short of saying the new rules are specifically targeted at beer gardens, patios and the like, but she did say they better define “enclosed area” for purposes of the Smoke Free Illinois Act.

Enforcement, she said, would remain in the hands of local law enforcement and public health departments.

An Illinois Department of Public Health posting on one of its web pages, though, makes it clear that lighting up in a beer garden is not OK with the state:

“This rulemaking focuses specifically on clarification that smoking is prohibited in a restaurant, bar and any area where food, beverages, or both, are prepared or served by employees, including outdoor areas such as patios, beer gardens, decks, or rooftops or concession areas. Additionally, the proposed rule includes provisions regarding filing of complaints and enforcement provisions.”

The rule change was approved August 11 by the joint committee, a bipartisan panel of six members each from the House and the Senate, and it went into effect Aug. 14.

The Smoke Free Illinois Act calls for fines between $100 and $250 for a person who smokes in a prohibited area.

For people who own or operate a public place and allow smoking in prohibited areas, fine minimums are $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense within a year of the first and $2,500 for each additional violation within one year after the first violation.

Toni Finch, manager at Bent River Brewing Co. in Moline, said she’d yet to hear of the change but the business would follow along if indeed it is law and it is enforced throughout the Quad Cities.

And that might hurt a bit, she said.

“We have some customers who like a cigar, and they come here specifically to sit outside and enjoy a cigar and a beer,” she said. “We’d probably lose them.”

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