Questions rise with passing Issue 5

Jennifer Zemanek

Before the arrival of the new year comes a change in the atmosphere of downtown Kent as a statewide smoking ban takes effect.

With the passing of Issue 5, smoking will be banned in most public places and places of employment starting Dec. 7.

Charlie Thomas, owner of Ray’s Place on Franklin Avenue, is awaiting the effects of the ban.

“We still don’t know what is happening,” Thomas said. “When I found out Issue 5 passed, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad either. I’m okay with it. I’ve always felt like people should choose if they wanted a smoking establishment or not.”

Megan Kleidon, director for prevention and tobacco coalition programs at the Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, said she is also unsure what will be occurring.

Kleidon said there are still about 10 days left to collect provisional and absentee ballots. After the final count of the ballots, the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, which includes five state representatives and five state senators, will discuss how to carry out the smoking ban.

“Things like who will be in charge of enforcing the law, how it will be enforced and consequences are what JCARR need to discuss,” Kleidon said.

Kleidon said she does not know if there will be a transition phase.

“The Department of Health will probably be in charge of distributing information, and once the information reaches businesses, a period of time will be established for warnings to be given for violations before fines are imposed.”

Around the same time the committee meets, another board will be meeting.

Thomas said the Kent Licensed Beverage Association and different bar and restaurant owners will be meeting in the next few weeks, and the ramifications of Issue 5’s passing will be discussed. He said then he will have more of an idea of what Issue 5’s agenda means.

“All the bars will try to approach the situation the same way,” Thomas said. “We will try to have a uniform way to handle the enforcement of the policy.”

Thomas said he is unsure of what the effects for Ray’s Place will be.

“I don’t know what will happen and how customers will react,” Thomas said.

“In the past, with California and New York statewide smoking bans, the initial effects were negative. But eventually business was same as normal.”

While the manager of Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar on Franklin Avenue didn’t have a comment, employee Kimberly Biello said she believes restaurants will adjust to the no smoking policy more easily than bars.

“People come in with their families to enjoy the food, but at bars sometimes it seems like drinking and smoking go hand-in-hand,” Biello said.

Exceptions to the ban include nursing homes, family-owned and operated businesses and private clubs.

“Ray’s Place will never be a private club,” Thomas said. “But it will be interesting to see what happens. Maybe I will look into buying a private club.”

Contact public affairs reporter Jennifer Zemanek at [email protected]u.