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April 6, 2012

Athens removes bars from no smoking ordinance

Athens —

 After months of discussion and tweaking, the Athens City Council considers a first reading on an ordinance prohibiting smoking, Monday.

  The major change in the ordinance from the original draft is the elimination of bars from the places where smoking is not allowed.

  “We don’t want to put anyone out of business, but at the same time, we need to be concerned about public health,” Councilman Jerry Don Vaught said at a March 21 special session.

City Administrator Pam Burton said at a special meeting of the council  Wednesday that changes will be made to the document to eliminate the ban from businesses that derive more than 75 percent of their income from the sale of liquor.

  Athens follows several Texas cities, among them Tyler, Kaufman and Jacksonville that have enacted smoking bans. Knowing it was a potentially controversial issue, last year, Mayor Randy Daniel invited downtown business owners, property owners and others who might have an interest in the downtown area, to share their ideas with city officials. That was followed by two public hearings in early 2012.

  The question of whether the council should make an exception for bars was raised in the March 7 meeting. According to minutes from the meeting. Jim Ogburn appeared before the Council and said that he generally favored the ordinance and the councils efforts to protect the public from second hand smoke. He, however, asked the council to consider an exemption for Eddy’s Club which derives more than 51 percent of its revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages.

  After discussion, Council member Jerry Don Vaught said he preferred the threshold for a business to be considered a bar at 75 percent liquor sales.

   “If they say it’s a bar, that’s what it needs to be,” Vaught said.

  Another item on the agenda Monday is discussion and possible action on an ordinance authorizing use of the city parking lot for Athens Farmers Market. The issue is being raised by D.J. Warren, who is listed as Market Manager. Warren has been working to keep the market alive in 2012. With the Athens Chamber of Commerce pulling out of the leadership role, two Athens women, D.J. Warren and Sharon Locke, began spearheading the effort to continue to give local and area produce growers a place to display their fruits and vegetables.

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