Westland bar shutdown reignites smoking ban debate

In a first for Wayne County, the Copper Door bar in Westland was ordered closed Friday evening after an official with the health department saw a patron breaking the state’s year-old ban against smoking inside public buildings.

The bar was reopened Saturday. And so was the debate about the rights of business owners to enforce their own regulations.

Wayne County health officials insisted they weren’t picking on the bar, just enforcing the law.

“They have received several notices that people were complaining,” Wayne County Health Officer Loretta Davis said Monday. “They have received a phone call, at least two letters and a visit where an inspector issued a violation.”

Smoking ban debate

Smoking ban debate

Steve Mace, executive director of Private Property Rights Michigan, said he was working to arrange a meeting with an attorney and Copper Door owner Cindy Snider to explore her legal options.

“It’s about the fact that these people are being driven out of business,” Mace said, echoing critics of the ban. He said individuals should be cited, not bar and restaurant owners.

Snider said she was not at the bar when the health department official observed a patron smoking just before 7:30 p.m. But when she arrived nearly an hour later, she found her patrons gone, a citation for violating the smoking ban and a closure order for the bar.

“I was absolutely devastated,” Snider said. “My business is doing so badly due to this law. … I can’t even afford to pay the fine.”

Snider, who said she’s worked at bars for more than 20 years, bought the bar in October, after the ban took effect.

The Michigan Department of Community Health released a survey at the end of May showing local health departments recorded 1,126 complaints of smoking in bars, restaurants and bowling alleys since the ban took effect May 1, 2010.

Citations were issued in 101 cases, and two establishments were ordered closed until they complied with the law.

Snider’s records show she was fined March 2 for a smoking ban violation and paid the fine March 4. She also has records showing she complied with a health inspection from the county in May.

“I feel like I’m a victim of circumstance,” Snider said.

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