Tavern Owners Lose Court Fight Against Smoking Ban

Tavern Owners Lose Court Fight Against Smoking Ban
OLYMPIA - A tavern owner who's been defying the state's smoking ban was hauled before a judge Friday in a case being watched by bars and restaurants all over the state.

Rich Ericson is a smoker and a regular customer at Frankie's Sports Bar & Grill. The owners of the Olympia establishment have been defying the smoking ban since last November.

That's why Frank and Cherie Schnarrs were ordered into court to explain why they believe the law is too vague and therefore unconstitutional. They believe it’s vague because tavern and restaurant owners don't know how far they have to go to enforce the ban.

"Does he physically have to remove them from the premises risking an altercation?" wondered Frankie's attorney Paul Taylor. "Does he physically have to remove the cigarette?"

Thurston County says there's nothing vague about this law. It says no smoking allowed, which is similar to not allowing minors in bars.

"This law is so simple it can be summarized in two words 'no smoking,' " said Thurston County Deputy Prosecutor Allen Miller.

The judge agreed, and now the owners of Frankie's must comply with the smoking ban or face contempt of court charges.

"We just had about 12-14 customers tell us that if I lose this, I lose them," said Frank Scharrs. "They're going to the tribes."

They predict as smokers go to the tribal casinos, Frankie’s business will be cut in half.

"I think (business) is really going to drop and I think it's so totally unfair that we are put in this position and the tribes are not," said Cheri Schnarrs.

But Frankie's owners say they will comply. The ashtrays have all been taken off the tables to the chagrin of customers.

"People want to smoke, they can smoke," said Frankie's customer Zenna Bromley. "I don't smoke and I still come here and support Frankie's and any other restaurant that wants to go that route."

Customer Rich Ericson added, "It's simple. They picked up all of the ashtrays and I started a tradition. I'm their first customer to walk outside and have a cigarette."

They're complying, but they're still fuming.

Even though the owners of Frankie's were hit with the court injunction, they won't have to pay the $9,000 in fines that built up the past four months.