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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2007
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3 Decatur bars can keep smoking
Businesses immune to law until November

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com · 340-2437

“Smoke ’em if you got ’em.”

That military slang could be a temporary slogan for three Decatur bars that have court protection to allow smoking until November.

Nash Bar and Grill, TK’s Bar and Frontier Entertainment remain immune to the city’s smoking ordinance that took effect Oct. 1.

Morgan County Circuit Judge Sherrie Paler held a hearing Wednesday in the joint case of Jeffrey Hitt, Frontier owner; Jerry Nash, Nash owner; and Steven Torbert, owner of TK’s. The men are asking for a preliminary injunction against the city’s smoking ban.

The temporary immunity does not apply to any other businesses in Decatur.

City attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case shortly before the hearing.

The special counsel for the city, Mark Craig, told Paler that the businesses were corporations and at least one did not have a city business license. He said attorney Catherine Halbrooks should have filed the litigation in the corporate names, not in the names of individuals.

Paler told Halbrooks, the business owners’ attorney, the petition should have been filed in the corporations’ names.

Halbrooks said she needed time to amend her petition and Paler granted it.

Paler said during the week of Nov. 13 she will schedule a hearing for the city’s motion to dismiss the case. If the litigation stands after that proceeding, Paler said, she will schedule another hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction.

The city also asked Paler to lift the temporary restraining order that she granted in September. Paler allowed the order to remain. The bars will continue to allow smoking.

Halbrooks’ petition against the city contends that city leaders are superseding federal and state laws. In addition, the complaint states that the mayor and council provided no education about the ordinance regarding compliance and how to address additional safety issues that the ordinance would create.

Also, the complaint cites the state Clean Indoor Air Act, which states that bars and lounges are exempt from the law.

The City Council majority passed the ordinance in August to make Decatur smoke-free
like six smaller cities in the state.

The mayor and council members did not attend Wednesday’s hearing.

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