City Commission postpones smoking ordinance amendment following public opposition

March 22, 2023 | 12:10 am

Updated March 21, 2023 | 11:50 pm

Dr. Alan Mullins of Owensboro Health Regional Hospital speaks at Tuesday's City Commission meeting in opposition of a proposed amendment to a smoking ordinance. Mullins was joined by several other medical professionals. | Photo by Josh Kelly

The Owensboro City Commission on Tuesday agreed to indefinitely postpone a vote regarding an amendment to the City’s smoking ordinance after local physicians and other medical professionals strongly voiced opposition to the proposal.

Commissioners heard the first reading of the proposed amendment on March 8, when officials said the the intention was to help Ellis Entertainment in sales. Ellis officials had raised concerns that the current ordinance would negatively affect the sales at their venue that is being built in Owensboro’s Towne Square Mall.

Ellis Entertainment remains in the early stages of opening a new entertainment venue that will have a wide selection of historical racing machines (HRMs), a simulcast betting and viewing area, and a new race- and sports-themed bar and grill. Ownership of the project was eventually acquired by Churchill Downs.

“Churchill explained that they believe the ability to smoke at the facility is integral to its success,” City Manager Nate Pagan said previously. “In discussions about the issue, the Board of Commissioners seemed open to their request. As a result, staff began negotiating with Churchill Downs about potential changes to the smoking ordinance.”

However, Owensboro Health Regional Hospital’s Dr. Alan Mullins said that he believed the amendment to the ordinance would negatively impact Owensboro.

“You’re opening a giant can of worms for yourself, and I think Churchill Downs is trying to pull one over on you, because they know that it really shouldn’t fly,” Mullins said.

Mullins referenced Churchill Downs’ smoking policy for their Louisville location, saying that even there smoking and e-cigarettes are prohibited from interior locations or where food is served.

Churchill Downs’ Louisville location’s smoking policy states, “Churchill Downs prohibits smoking and e-cigarettes in interior locations or in any location where food is being served, including outdoor balconies. Smoking is permitted in most outdoor areas not bound by two or more walls, provided the area meets local regulations.”

Promptly following Mullins’ comments, Mayor Tom Watson made a sub-motion to postpone the vote on the amendment. That sub-motion passed unanimously.

In other business, a Municipal Order was on the agenda as a companion action regarding pay for Ellis Entertainment employees; however, due to the postponement of the initial vote, commissioners opted to not take action on the order as well.

The amendment would have allowed smoking “in a limited scale for projects meeting various criteria.” Pagan previously noted those criteria include:

  • The project or site must have at least 50,000 square feet of space and represent a capital investment of at least $30 million.
  • Smoking would only be allowed in a limited portion of the space which is not to exceed 15% of the total space accessible to the public.
  • The smoking area must be partitioned with a full wall and a vestibule or double doors between smoking and non-smoking areas.
  • A separate air purification system is required.
  • The location must not allow patrons under the age of 18.

March 22, 2023 | 12:10 am

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