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Metro Council delays voting to ban smoking in 21+ venues in Nashville

Smoking ban
Posted at 9:01 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 23:23:30-04

Smoking is still allowed at certain age-restricted venues and bars in Nashville — for now.

Metro Council members held off on voting on a bill that would ban smoking and vaping in venues that are 21 and up and currently still allow indoor smoking.

The vote came after a lot of debate. Council members decided they needed more time to discuss the issue and the possible impact on businesses that allow smoking. They will revisit the issue at the next council meeting on Oct. 4.

When a statewide smoking ban passed in 2007, age-restricted venues were exempt. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a bill allowing cities to regulate smoking and vaping in those venues.

The bill's primary sponsor, Metro Council Member Jeff Syracuse, estimated there are about 20 establishments in Davidson County that still allow smoking.

"We’ve come to a place now where we know smoking is bad for you," said Syracuse. "It's bad for our hospitality workers. It's bad for our musicians. As a city, we owe it to them to protect them and their health because of so much they bring to the city."

Health advocates — including the group Musicians for a Smoke Free Nashville — have been pushing for the measure, citing the risk of secondhand smoke to employees and performers.

"When you play in a smoke-filled environment, it cuts your voice in half," said Jamie Kent, a singer and songwriter who is also the chair of Musicians for a Smoke Free Nashville. "I’ve been caught in middle of asthma attacks. I’ve had to cancel shows afterward because of that. It seems strange that almost every other Tennessean has a smoke-free guarantee in their workplace but us."

However, owners of businesses that currently allow smoking do not support the bill.

The owner of Santa's Pub in Nashville, said the change would put him out of business. He said it is clearly advertised that his bar allows smoking. He said many venues that allow smoking don't typically feature live music.

"It's just ridiculous," said Denzel Irwin, owner of Santa’s Pub. "If you don’t want to smoke, don’t come to our bar. If you don’t want to play in the bar, don’t come. There are other bars you can play at. Leave us alone."

The owner of Buds and Brews, the first cannabis restaurant in Tennessee, also expressed concerns about the change.

"We believe this bill has unintended consequences," said Joey Fuson, an attorney, and part-owner of Buds and Brews. "If the idea is to try and prevent musicians from being forced to work in an environment where smoke exists, eliminating vaping from establishments where people come to consume vaping, that doesn’t work out."

Under the new ordinance, anyone who smokes or vapes in violation of the ban could face a fine of up to $50.