Everything You Wanted to Know About the St. Louis Smoking Ban -- But Were Afraid to Ask

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With all the hoopla surrounding the new smoking ban, we've yet to find a good resource offering a list of city establishments where patrons can still light up. Certain bars are exempt, right? How's a smoker to know?!


As it turns out, there's good reason for the confusion: The city has yet to release any such list. But officials promise that will change soon, possibly as early as today. (You're encouraged to check the Department of Health's website; we'll also stay on the story here at A to Z.


But even that won't bring an end to the discussion. Why? Because health inspections (which have been occurring in bars across the city in recent weeks) will continue into the weeks ahead. That official list of exempt establishments will continue to evolve.

Say what? You're telling us the ban was legislated a year ago, enacted two days ago -- and it's still not clear exactly where we're allowed to smoke?

You're welcome to criticize the city all you want for the confusion; after all, The Daily Beast ranked St. Louis as the No. 6 city with a smoking problem in a new article this morning (nearly 23 percent of us light up, the website claims), so we understand your frustration. But our advice is to relax.

The most important thing smokers should know is this: If the owners of your favorite tap room believe they meet the exemption criteria -- that is, if they think their bar is less than 2,000 square feet, with less than 25 percent of sales going toward food -- they are permitted to continue allowing patrons to light up while waiting for the official city exemption. In other words, the city believes that if you're smart enough to open a bar, you're smart enough to know how to use a tape measure and calculator.

The bottom line for patrons, city officials tell A to Z: If your preferred watering hole looks like a closet and doesn't seem to pump out a lot of grub, you can expect ashtrays to be waiting for you.

However: That doesn't mean bar owners don't have to apply for exemption; they still do, and likely already have. (In fact, we were told that as of last week, 105 bars had applied for exemption, and 37 had been inspected.)

According to the city, there are only sixteen health inspectors who are -- right at this very moment! -- squiring around the city, armed with tape measurers and clipboards. But even though there are 765 drinking establishments operating in the city, those inspectors will only have to visit bars who have applied for exemptions.

Final question we know you were dying to ask: Does that mean scheming barkeeps can continue encouraging patrons to smoke, even if their establishment doesn't meet exemption criteria? As the city's Kara Bowlin admits, the answer to that is, technically, yes. The city isn't going to police a bar unless they start getting complaints. So if you're a non-smoker who suspects your larger-than-average bar is breaking the rules, you're encouraged to call the Citizens' Service Bureau at 314-622-4800, visit them online or tweet @stlcsb today.

Any more questions? Let us know in the comment section. In addition to sharing that list of exempted bars as soon we can get our hands on it, we also promise to stay on this story as it develops.

Oh, and for those of you wondering about St. Louis County -- they have enacted their own ban, and they actually have an up-to-date list of organizations that have been granted exemptions. You can find that here.

UPDATE: This post was updated at 12:25 to reflect that one ban is not necessarily stricter than the other.

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Katy
Katy

I just want to be able to smoke in Courtesy Diner. Nothing else matters.

Steven
Steven

Courtesy is enforcing smoke free. Hasn't seemed to be much of an issue so far.

Bill Hannegan
Bill Hannegan

I wonder where they got the 23 percent smoking statistic for St. Louis. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services put it at 30 percent a while back.

Chris
Chris

They probably all died of lung cancer.

Kenneth
Kenneth

Hey, if you haven't noticed, there are already too many fucking pubs!!! Who cares already.

Steven
Steven

Such language! Such blasphemy! Too many pubs?! Why do you hate America?

Bill Hannegan
Bill Hannegan

As a smoking ban opponent, I have to admit that the City Health Department has been very reasonable about all this. I do object to the under 25 percent food requirement which is not in the law. I don't think that will stand up if challenged in court.

stlbites.com
stlbites.com

That PDF is titled "applicants". Is it for sure the exemptions granted? I'm surprised to see someplace like Maryland Yards on there. They serve plenty of food and are relatively large.

I sort of suspect there are a few bars that are just ignoring it.

Annie Zaleski
Annie Zaleski

The writer, John, checked -- the list is exemptions granted.

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