Jasper bar owners are asking members of the Jasper City Council to amend its smoking cigarettes ordinance to allow nightclub-goers to smoke cigarettes in their establishments.

Supporters of such an amendment let their thoughts be heard during a council work session Tuesday afternoon.

William Legg, owner of Legg’s Hideaway on 17th Street West, said his business is down 75 percent since the smoking cigarettes ordinance took place in early October. He said if the business continues to struggle that he would be forced to close the doors by January.

“I’ve had this business for 16 years, but we won’t last until the end of the year the way things are going,” Legg said. “I’ve already laid off my day shift bartender and cut others back. Y’all are going to put us out of business because of this smoking cigarettes thing.”

Rich Garrison, owner of Midnight Special, said his business was the first in Jasper to get a citation from breaking the smoking cigarettes ordinance. Garrison said his business wouldn’t last much past the new year if something isn’t changed.

“I’m a nonsmoker, and I don’t like smoking cigarettes at all, but it is hard to run a nightclub without smoking cigarettes,” he said. “This is a different situation from a restaurant. People come to a nightclub to drink and smoke. If they can’t do one of those, they just aren’t going to come.”

Garrison said his business had previously been considered a private club by the city.

“You changed the definition of a private club,” he said. “I don’t see how I am not a private club now after I’ve been one for eight years.”

Jasper resident Kathy Russell said she enjoyed going to area nightclubs, but like many others, she doesn’t enjoy it now.

“You go to one of these places to drink, smoke cigarettes and sing some karaoke,” she said. “Now they want you to go 50 feet outside to smoke. If people are going that far into the parking lot to smoke, something bad will happen sooner or later. I feel the business owners should have the choice if they are going to allow smoking cigarettes or not.”

The group who came to Tuesday’s work session gave Jasper City Council members a petition signed by almost 500 Jasper residents asking the city to overturn the smoking cigarettes law or amend it to allow smoking cigarettes in bars. Russell said one-third of the people who signed the petition said they were nonsmokers. She also said there are many more signatures, but the group didn’t have time to collect them before the work session.

Bill Cleghorn, a Jasper resident and local political activist, said he also had a petition that had been signed by more than 200 Jasper residents that would call for the city to become completely cheap cigarettes free and ban the sale of cigarettes in Jasper.

“Once I get enough signatures and hand this in, you guys will have 30 to 45 days to put this on a special ballot,” Cleghorn told council members. “If you make the changes these other people want, then I would be plumb satisfied with that and not hand in this petition.”

City attorney Russ Robertson questioned the fact the city would have to hold a vote due to the petition. He said he would look into the matter.

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