Investigator update: Violations of smoking ban continue

5:16 PM, Dec 24, 2009   |    comments
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In November, a Channel 3 News hidden-camera investigation found customers and an employee lighting up at the Blue Banana in Medina County.

"It's typical of what we find when we do an investigation," said Janet Gammell of the Medina County Health Department. "It's a blatant violation of the law."

As of a month ago, state records show the state issued $18,000 in fines but a month later, fines have jumped to $23,200.  Records also show the bar has paid $2,300.

An employee denied allegations that customers and employees were smoking indoors, even though the same employee was caught on hidden camera smoking indoors.

At the Suburban Inn in Middleburg Heights, more fines were issued for violations of the smoking ban since Channel 3 News  first paid an undercover visit.  State records from a month ago show fines totalling about $16,000.  The fines are now up to $29,100.  The state says the bar has paid only $100.

"The problem with this facility is they feel they shouldn't have to tell people to stop smoking in their place," said Dave Covell of the Cuyahaog County Health Department.

A bartender at the Suburban Inn told The Investigator Tom Meyer that "If the health department has such a problem with it, they should be at the bar telling people not to smoke."

If the Ohio Health Department has trouble collecting fines, it can refer cases to the Ohio Attorney General. 

So far, the attorney general's office has sued a bar in Columbus and one in Cincinnati.  But no legal action has been taken against the Suburban Inn or Blue Banana whose fines are comparable to those buisnesses which were sued. 

The state attorney general's office issued the following statement:

"We pursue legal action at the request of our client, the Ohio Department of Health.  This is a relatively new statute for which there is no legal precedent. We have recently filed  lawsuits against two of the worst offenders in the state and will continue to seek full compliance from everyone as appropriate."


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