An administrative law judge is recommending that the liquor license of the Ottumwa V.F.W. Post be revoked, and the license of an Ottumwa bar be suspended 30 days for violating the smoking ban.
The recommendations come after each establishment had a hearing before the judge. Lynn Walding is the administrator of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division and says the recommendation to revoke the V.F.W.’s license is based on a precedent set in earlier cases.
Walding says businesses that indicate during their hearing and operation of their business that they are not going to comply with the law, they division has no choice but to revoke their license. Walding says if a business comes into compliance with the law they would consider giving them their license back.
"But it is unacceptable to let them re-open the business and go right back into a pattern and practice of disregarding the law," Walding says. In the other Ottumwa case, the judge recommended that the license of "Smokin’ Jo’s" bar in Ottumwa be suspended for 30 days for violating the smoking ban.
Both the V.F.W. and Smokin’ Jo’s have 30 days to appeal the ruling to Walding. Walding can change the judge’s recommendation or uphold it. .After Walding makes his final opinion, then the license holder can appeal the case to the district court.
Otis Campbell’s bar in West Burlington was the first to face action for violating the smoking ban, and Walding says a notice was given to Doris’ Tavern in Burlington Tuesday — making it the sixth Burlington area bar to face action.
Walding says there has been a lot of emphasis on the smoking ban in Des Moines County, with Otis Campbell’s leading the charge. He says there has been some "disregard of the law" there and the state sent two agents down and they checked eight establishments and found five were violating the smoking ban. Walding says they will focus some more attention on Des Moines County to address the violations.
"It’s our intention to notify the liquor licensees in that county that we will be going down and doing inspections and if they don’t comply, we will be citing them for violations," Walding says. He says those establishments would then face hearings or could make a settlement. Walding says, "The end goal of course is to gain compliance with the law and to bring all licensees on a level playing field with those who are currently complying with the law."
The smoking ban will be one year old in July and Walding says all the actions are part of adjusting to the law. Walding says if you draw the analogy to the seatbelt law that got changed over a decade ago, he says it took awhile for the "public to the recognize that paradigm shift in thinking."
He says the due process is now starting to take its course in the smoking ban. Walding says it takes about nine months to go through the administrative process for those establishments that aren’t complying, and as that process plays out, people see the consequences if they don’t comply.
The one big test remaining for the law is how a court would rule on its constitutionality. The owner of Otis Campbell’s is considering such an appeal. Walding says the chances of having Iowa’s smoking ban thrown out in court appear slim based on what’s happened in other states that implemented a ban. You can find a complete list of the smoking ban actions here.