MADISON, Wis. (AP) Jeff Bakken has waited for this.
Whenever he goes out for a drink in Madison, the 44-year-old teacher and runner from Monona has sucked in secondhand smoke until now.
The city enacted an ordinance that bans smoking in bars and restaurants Friday. First-time violators face up to $125 in fines if they don’t quit or leave. A second offense carries a maximum $500 fine. About 20 other Wisconsin cities have some kind of anti-smoking ban. Appleton’s ban, which also extends to bars and restaurants, also took effect Friday.
In Madison, the ban created a firestorm of controversy, with smokers accusing the City Council of trying to run their lives and bar owners fretting over lost customers. Already a faction of aldermen wants to repeal the ban, and state lawmakers are threatening to put a stop to smoking bans.
“We went too far,” said Alderman Paul Skidmore, a sponsor of the council resolution to restore smoking in bars and eateries.
But George Twigg, a spokesman for Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, said the ban will protect the health of bar and restaurant employees as well as customers.
Right on, said Bakken. He showed up at the Argus pub Friday with “Smoke Free in Mad City 2005” handwritten in marker on his shirt. He sat at the bar while a group of smokers sat outside in a sidewalk patio.
“That’s where we like them. Outside,” Bakken said. “It’s about their nasty habit imposing on my health.”
Tell that to Rachel Dulik, a 29-year-old Madison screenprinter who was forced to light up outside the Argus for the first time Friday.
“All I want to do is do what I do and everybody leave me alone,” she said.
Brian Haltinner, 41, runs the Maduro cigar bar near the state Capitol make that the ex-cigar bar. He doesn’t know how he’ll stay in business.
The City Council considered a measure exempting cigar bars from the ban, but the move didn’t fly. He thinks he can hold on with outdoor seating until fall. He doesn’t know what will happen when winter comes.
Being a cigar bar “was the niche we carved out over the last seven years. We’ve got to find something that makes us different from everyone else,” Haltinner said.
The City Council could consider the resolution to wipe out the smoking ban at a meeting Tuesday. Skidmore said cigarettes are legal and people can choose whether to go into a smoky bar or restaurant.
Republican legislators, meanwhile, are trying to pass a bill that would permit smoking in taverns and restaurant bars statewide. The measure would still ban smoking in restaurant dining areas, but prohibit local governments from enacting stricter measures.
Lobbyists for the Wisconsin Tavern League pushed the bill, saying it would create a level playing field for bars and restaurants rather than a patchwork of ordinances.
The Assembly passed the measure, which still needs approval from the state Senate and Gov. Jim Doyle.
Doyle spokeswoman Melanie Fonder said the governor doesn’t support the bill.
“This would be a step backward for public health,” Fonder said.
For now, Caroline Marks, a 32-year-old bartender at the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Co. in Madison, couldn’t be happier. No more picking up cigarette butts, dumping out dirty ashtrays or going home reeking of smoke.
“It will be nice to be able to go out and not have to take a shower when you come back,” she said.
Originally written By: TODD RICHMOND Associated Press Writer