City group recommends smoking-ban penalties

Think smoking is expensive? Try $200 per coffin nail.

That's the maximum fine smokers would pay for lighting up in a bar or restaurant after the city's smoking ordinance goes into effect.

A city task force also proposed that smokers could also face misdemeanor trespass charges if they do not leave upon request.

Bars and restaurants that do not enforce the smoking ban would face initial $200 fines that would increase to a $2,000 maximum for repeat violations.

The smoking ban goes into effect 12:01 a.m. March 31, unless the State Legislature limits its reach. The city task force is working on enforcement, marketing and public education. The Council will eventually have to vote on the fine levels.

According to a Nov. 8 memo from Lori Olson, deputy director of environmental management and safety, $200,000 would be raised for a three-and-a-half month campaign "to promote the uniqueness and variety of Minneapolis neighborhood bars and restaurants." The campaign hopes to offset potential patron losses at bars and restaurants that now allow smoking.

The Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association is helping with the marking plan, which will include print, radio and television ads, and Internet promotion. The subcommittee will fund-raise with medical and health organizations.

Another subcommittee will arrange series of business association meetings to explain the ordinance and will mail an estimated 1,400 informational packets in February, including sample no-smoking signage.

The Enforcement Subcommittee recommends complaint-based enforcement, unless enforcement officials are at a site for other reasons and witness smoking.

Ordinance violations would include: failure to post the required signage; presence of ashtrays, lighters or matchbooks; or tolerance of smoking inside the premises.

Chronic violators could face license suspension or revocation.

Task force members include bar and restaurant owners, city officials, Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau officials, and public health advocates.