Waterloo bar challenged for Smoke free Air Act violations - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo bar challenged for Smoke free Air Act violations

DES MOINES (KWWL) - Attorney General Tom Miller has filed three more liquor license actions against Iowa bars for violating the Iowa Smokefree Air Act. The bars are: Cocktails in Arnold Park, Doris' Tavern in Burlington, and Trucker Bar in Waterloo.

There have now been 41 complaints filed by the Attorney General's Office with the state Alcoholic Beverages Division seeking to revoke or suspend liquor licenses for violations of Iowa's Smokefree Air Act.

Last week, the Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) revoked or suspended liquor licenses of two bars because of violations of the Smokefree Air Act. Otis Campbell's Bar in West Burlington lost its liquor license as the result of its "persistently and continually" refusing to comply with the law. Fro's, in Wilton, Iowa, had its liquor license suspended for 30 days.

"A handful of bars need to get the message," Miller said. "They are obligated to obey all Iowa laws as a condition of their privilege to hold a license, and that includes the Smokefree law."

The three new Complaints, which were filed last Friday, include:

"Trucker Bar" in Waterloo received notices of potential violation from the Iowa Department of Public Health in September 2008 and January 2009. The AG's Complaint says that on four occasions since August 2008 officers of the Waterloo Police Department observed persons openly smoking inside the premises and that employees did nothing to correct the situation. On one of the occasions ashtrays also were observed.

"Doris' Tavern" in Burlington received notices of potential violation from the Iowa Department of Public Health in November 2008, February 2009, and March 2009, based on citizen complaints. The Complaint filed by the Attorney General says that in March a Deputy with the Des Moines County Sheriff's Office observed individuals openly smoking inside the premises, the presence of ashtrays, and that employees did nothing to correct the situation.

"Cocktails" in Arnolds Park received three complaint-based notices of potential violation from the Iowa Department of Public Health. According to the AG's Complaint, persons were observed openly smoking in the premises by the Arnolds Park Police in February. According to the police, employees did nothing to stop the smoking. Subsequent visits by an investigator for the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division noted evidence that smoking had been occurring on the premises, including the presence of ashtrays.

In each case, the Attorney General alleged the bars' "open and continuing failure to comply" with the Smokefree Air Act is grounds for suspension and/or revocation of the licensees' liquor license.

When the Attorney General files a Complaint with the Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD), it is referred to an administrative law judge for an evidentiary hearing. The ALJ then issues a proposed decision which can be appealed to the ABD Administrator.

"We are determined to enforce this new law -- because it is the law, and because it saves lives," Miller said. "The huge majority of Iowa businesses are obeying the law, and we will not allow a small, vocal minority to flout it," he said.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the Iowa Smokefree Air Act is working, and it is saving Iowans' lives," Miller said. "The adult smoking rate in Iowa has dropped from 19% to 14% over the last two years -- in part because the Iowa Smokefree Air Act has encouraged people to quit. Lives of smokers and non-smokers alike are being saved. Iowans are healthier because of the law."

Miller praised Iowa businesses for overwhelmingly complying with the new law. He said that of over 82,000 businesses in the state, the State Department of Public Health has received complaints against only 917 -- about 1%. And Miller noted that some of those complaints had to do with technical issues associated with the startup of the new law, such as placement of signs.

"Actions against liquor licenses are one of our most effective enforcement tools," Miller said. "The principle is simple: Holders of liquor licenses are obligated to follow Iowa law, all Iowa law. If they break the law, their licenses may be suspended or revoked."

Online Producer: Jason Mortvedt

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