Columbia City Council could snuff out smoking ban dispute

Columbia City Council will consider revamping the city's smoking ban at its Wednesday meeting.

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Earlier this year, Columbia City Council was ready to take The Tobacco Merchant in Harbison to court for violating the indoor smoking ban, when the business added a bar.

I understand banning smoking in restaurants and I actually endorse that, but being able to have a drink with your cigar is also important, said Brian Stockard.

That was the plan for the future to go ahead and start moving forward with alcohol, says manager Travis Roberts of The Cigar Box, and have a place where people could smoke after work and maybe have a beer or two.

The Cigar Box added a bar nearly a year ago, according to Roberts.

Tobacco retailers and their customers argue the sales of beer and wine are merely incidental.

"I really don't consider this a bar, says Eric Stockard. The amount of alcohol that's served and consumed here is miniscule compared to the tobacco sales."

City council is considering the first reading on an amendment Wednesday that would exempt stores, like The Cigar Box from the ban, if they can show their business generates at least 35 percent of its annual gross income from tobacco products.

If passed, the amended ordinance only applies to tobacco retailers. Smoking will still be banned in bars and restaurants.