South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By David Assad
Contributing Writer 

Smoking ban goes into effect today


The Allegheny County ban on smoking in public places was to go into effect this week at bars and restaurants which are in abundance on the South Side.

This is particularly true along a 20-block stretch of the Carson Street corridor between 10th Street and the South Side Works. This ban has quite a few local bar/restaurant owners very upset.

Bill Martin, owner of Dee's Café for the past 27 years, has reportedly considered the elimination of serving food at his establishment because of the smoking ban. There is an exemption to the county ban if a bar has fewer than 10 employees and it generates less than 10 percent of its business from the sale of food. Mr. Martin could not be reached for comment after messages were left for him at his bar.

However, according to the bar's internet web site, Dee's Café (located at 1314 Carson Street) has a goal “to maintain a commitment to this community as the premiere pool venue in town.”

The bar “just added four new….pool tables to compliment (sic) our three current tables for…customer enjoyment…Our food is exceptional, as noted by the staff and our customers…The kitchen is open Monday through Friday from 11 [a.m. to] 9 [p.m.].”

According to an employee, Mr. Martin may close the bar's kitchen in order to be exempt from the smoking ban. The concept of the “smoke-filled pool hall” has been entrenched in American culture for decades. Having a smoke-free venue for shooting a game of pool seems somewhat incongruous. Dee's Café also features a dart board and ping pong table for its patrons.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Michael A. Della Vecchias ruled Dec. 28 that Allegheny County's smoking ban would take effect Jan. 2. But he delayed it from applying to bars and restaurants until May 1.

There is a debate going on whether to have a state-wide anti-smoking law rather than anti-smoking laws through local governments. The Pennsylvania state legislature has been considering a law that would ban smoking in public places statewide. In addition to Allegheny County, other cities in the state such as Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Erie and Scranton have adopted antismoking ordinances.

New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Delaware already have statewide smoking bans among 16 states in the country that have enacted smoking bans.

Back in December, Judge Della Vecchia cited a “legal quagmire” over whether Allegheny County had the authority to enact such a ban. He delayed its effective date until May 1 and urged the state legislature to clarify the issue.

While Judge Della Vecchia delayed implementation of the smoking ban for restaurants and bars, he ruled the remaining sections of the county ordinance were valid and would take effect on Jan. 2, which it has.

The law includes a smoking ban for all indoor venues and workplaces, including sporting facilities and concert halls.

The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team went smokeless at PNC Park this season for the first time. Previously, there were areas at the ballpark designated for smoking.

Smoking bans have gained momentum in Pennsylvania despite uncertainties about the pre-emption clause of the state Clean Indoor Air Act.

A South Side social club that runs a regular bingo was fined for violations of the county's smoking ban on March 28. The fines, that have been appealed, totaled $16,250 against the Lithuanian Citizens' Society of Western Pennsylvania for allowing 65 people to smoke (at $250 per smoker) at the bingo conducted there March 21.

During the first six months of the ban, which began Jan. 2, a warning is to be given for the first violation, but a $250 fine is levied for each violation after that.

The Lithuanian club, a non-profit charitable organization, notes on its website that “Our bingo is now non-smoking!”

The bingos are held in the upper and lower halls of the society's building located at 1721 Jane Street.

During the first three months of the county-wide ban, the health department claims it has received 129 complaints about potential violations. Most complaints have involved office buildings and recreational facilities. However, there was no indication that any of the complaints came from patrons of the South Side bingos.


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