Machesney Park hits another dead end in the debate over whether we have the right to smoke, anywhere, anytime.
A referendum earlier this month shows sixty-one percent of Harlem Township voters support a smoking ban in local businesses. Monday night residents voiced their concerns directly to the village's Public Safety Committee, but they did not reach a decision.
Bar owners are the most vocal group against the ban. Health workers spoke in favor of it. The ordinance would outlaw smoking in any enclosed public gathering place and within 25 feet of those areas. Proponents want the ban to cut down on second hand smoke. Bar owners say it would hurt their business. They say it would push their customers into neighboring communities that allow smoking.
Says Machesney Park Bar Owner Debbie Numbers, "I have patrons in my bar who do not smoke and I've asked them what they think about it and the smoking doesn't bother them as much as the government trying to tell us that we aren't free to run our business the way we want to."
Dean Thomas is a former Machesney Park Cardiologist in favor of the ban. He says, "We need to have laws to protect the public. It's a health issue and I would hate to see economics for special interest groups trump the health and well-being of the community at large."
Bar owners say it's all about choice. If customers don't want to be in a smoking environment, they can choose to avoid those bars. The committee could not make its choice tonight. They laid over the ordinance to review it and make changes.
The public safety committee won't vote on the ordinance again until the fourth monday in January. Trustees hope they'll reach a decision then and bring the ordinance before the whole board.