Hearing set in smoking case

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A judge will rule next month on a request from the owners of a Vandalia bar to dismiss tickets issued by the city for allegedly allowing people to smoke in their business.
At a court hearing in Fayette County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Judge Ericka Sanders of Hillsboro scheduled a hearing at 11 a.m. on Nov. 9.
At that hearing, attorneys for Lisa and Albert Doyle, owners of the Redwood Inn, will argue for their dismissal of tickets issued by the city that allege smoking violations on Aug. 12, 19 and 21.
The tickets were initially issued to Lisa Doyle, but the city subsequently dropped those tickets and issued new tickets against G&T Holdings, the name that appears on the city liquor license issued by the city for the Redwood Inn.
The tickets allege violations of an ordinance that the city council approved in January in an attempt to enforce the state law prohibiting smoking in public places.
The council approved that ordinance after hearing from Police Chief Larry Eason that Illinois Department of Public Health officials complained that the city was not enforcing the state smoking ban.
That ordinance states that anyone holding a business license in the city is subject to a fine of up to $500 for  “conducting such licensed activity in such manner as to constitute a breach of the peace, or a menace to the health, safety or welfare of the public, or a disturbance of the peace or comfort of the residents of the city, upon recommendation of the health officer or other appropriate city official.”
The ordinance, Eason said, is a more appropriate and efficient way to enforce the smoking ban, because it has police officers enforcing the law instead of having local public health employees go into bars and clubs.
Also, he said, enforcing the smoking ban through the state law would require both police officers and those issued citations to travel to Mt. Vernon for hearings.
In their motion, filed on Sept. 9, the Doyles argue that there are technical issues with the tickets. They also argue that the city ordinance is unconstitutional.
In setting the Nov. 9 hearing date, Sanders gave the city 14 days to respond to the Doyles’ motion to dismiss.