Citywide smoking ban takes effect in Indianapolis

Chuck Shrum smoked the last cigarette at Downtown Olly's Friday morning.
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The smoke is clearing at bars around the city of Indianapolis.

At 6 a.m. Friday, a comprehensive smoking ban went into effect, outlawing all types of smoking at almost all bars in the city. From now on, all bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and hotels will have to be smoke-free. The only exceptions will be for cigar bars, smoke shops and private fraternal clubs that apply for special permits. The ban affects about 250 bars across Marion County.

At Downtown Olly's, bartenders stacked all the ashtrays they normally have on the tables to be given away for free, because they'll no longer need them. In their place, they have coasters provided by Smoke Free Indy, a reminder to the public that it is a smoke-free establishment.

As the last smoker put out his cigarette Friday morning, his ashtray was taken away. The bar's owner, Dean Coleman, says he's pleased about the change and is happy his place will now be smoke-free.

Patrons were not quite as happy, but they say they'll deal with it.

"Personally, I don't think it's right, because they keep cutting people's rights to do things they should be able to do," said smoker Chuck Shrum.

However, many owners are embracing the change to be smoke-free, hoping that it will not hurt their business.

"So many people didn't come in here because of the smoke and I certainly understand it. I've heard so many positive comments, so I think it will increase our business. I don't think it will hurt our business," Coleman said.

Some establishments, like the Mass Avenue Pub, which is open until 3:00 a.m. are thankful the ordinance went into effect at 6:00 a.m., as opposed to midnight, which would require them to ask people to stop smoking.

Lyndsay Grace with Smoke Free Indy says Indianapolis is the last largest city to move forward with this legislation.

"We have Chicago and New York and L.A., but even smaller cities like Columbus and Cincinnati and Detroit and Louisville. So we are behind in Indiana a little bit and nationwide, but it doesn't really matter because we are celebrating today," Grace said.

Some bars have filed suit against the city, saying the new law deprives them of the same benefits that private clubs enjoy because they are exempt from the ban.

Smoke Free Indy handed out a pamphlet to bar owners, who will have to enforce the ordinance, giving them tips for dealing with customers who may not be very happy about not being able to smoke. Customers can be fined up to $100 if they're caught smoking in a bar, as can the owner of the establishment.

Regular cigarettes cannot be smoked in hookah bars and cigar bars that file for the exemption.