Bar owners are raising money to fund a legal challenge to the city's smoking ban, which is set to go into effect across St. Louis at midnight on December 31.
Five years ago, the city banned smoking at most bars and restaurants, but 130 establishments were granted exemptions. Those exemptions are set to expire for good on New Year's Day — for everyone except the Metropolitan Athletic Club and the city's sole casino, Lumiere Place. As we previously reported, the permanent exceptions those entities are getting have angered bar owners who aren't so lucky
See also: Special Treatment for Casinos, Athletic Club Irks Missouri Bars Going Smoke-Free
Gadfly Bill Hannegan of Keep St. Louis Free sent a letter to all the bars losing their exemptions on November 17, seeking their participation and support in a legal challenge. He's also launched a GoFundMe campaign
"Such preferential treatment for casinos is illegal, unconstitutional and should be challenged in court," Hannegan wrote. "[We] are attempting to organize a legal challenge to this unfair law, and we hope that you will participate in this action."
They don't have a lawyer on retainer yet, but Hannegan is confident they can get one. Every penny raised through the GoFundMe will go directly to legal fees; unlike sites such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe does not require the total sum to be raised in order to distribute the money.
Bar owners will contribute directly to the group; the crowd-finding campaign is for members of the public who want to chip in. "Just thought I would give folks a chance to give $5 or $10 online in support of freedom and fairness if they feel moved to do so," he tells Riverfront Times
. "Anything is greatly appreciated."
Of the 53 bars that were denied exemptions and forced to go smoke-free, sixteen have closed — a total of 30 percent. Of the 130 bars granted exemptions, only 15 percent have since closed.
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