West Burlington police chief Alex Oblein has found himself in the middle of the debate over the state smoking ban that went into effect in July. Otis Campbell’s Bar and Grill in the city is the first bar to face the possible loss of its liquor license for violating the law.
Oblein testified at the Alcoholic Beverages Division hearing Friday on the bar’s liquor license. Bar owner Larry Duncan is openly defying the ban as he tries to fight the issue, and Oblein says that’s led to a lot of calls and complaints, even some to his wife.
He says his wife is a nurse and doctors have talked to her about it, and others early on complained to him. Oblein says he had to explain there is a process to go through. The city made the decision to let the state pursue the issue because of the cost to take it to court. Oblein says he doesn’t have a problem with not cited the bar owner, since there is a state process in place.
Oblein says it’s not a criminal law, but is a civil law and all the penalties involve fines and not jail time. Oblein says Duncan talked with him early on and said he was going to go against the ban, and says they have a mutual respect for each other, even though they disagree on each others position. Oblein says the issue has generated fewer calls as the community waits to see what happens.
Oblein says everyone is aware of what is happening and are just waiting for things to take their course. The state hearing wrapped up Friday, but the Administrative Law Judge will not make a ruling until sometime in December.