Bar owners challenging smoking ban seek injunction

Ten Indianapolis bar owners who are challenging new public smoking restrictions are asking a federal court for a preliminary injunction to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance until a judge rules on their lawsuit.

Their motion for injunction filed Monday follows a federal suit brought in May that claims the ban violates the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fourteenth Amendment provides equal protection under the law.

The ordinance, signed by Mayor Greg Ballard in April, expands existing citywide restrictions against indoor public smoking to include bowling alleys, hotel rooms and most bars. Tobacco shops, hookah bars, existing not-for-profit private clubs and downtown's off-track betting parlor are exempt from the law.

The owners say they’re being deprived of the same rights afforded to private clubs. They also charge that the ban violates other sections of the Constitution by not including bars in Beech Grove, Lawrence, Speedway and Southport, also located within Marion County.

Lawrence since has passed its own smoking ordinance, which goes into effect Oct. 1.

In filing the injunction, the owners’ attorney, Mark Small, said that several of his clients have lost as much as 60 percent of their business since the law took effect June 1.

“There is no doubt that, contrary to what the proponents of the ban claimed, many Indianapolis bars have been harmed by the smoking ban,” he said in a written statement. “All of my clients’ bars are small, neighborhood taverns. Many of the owners have put their life savings into their bars and now they face the very real possibility that the city’s ban will put them out of business.”

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