Durango bar wins court battle on smoking ban
DURANGO Patrons at Orio’s Roadhouse can keep smoking indoors after a judge Tuesday ruled that the bar does not need an onsite humidor to qualify as a cigar bar, verifying a loophole that would exempt it and other establishments from a statewide smoking ban passed last year.In his ruling, District Judge David Dickinson wrote that the statewide smoking ban is “ambiguous” and “does not state in so many words that a bar must rent humidors in order to qualify for the exemption.”Dickinson did not rule as to whether the bar received 5 percent or $50,000 of its revenue from tobacco sales last year, which the bar and dozens of other tavern owners say would define them as cigar bars exempt from the ban.”I’m very excited,” said bar co-owner Heidi Orio. “Thanks to Judge Dickinson for clarifying what needed to be clarified.”The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed in August by Orio’s Roadhouse owners Heidi and Rob Orio after District Attorney Craig Westberg threatened to prosecute them for not having rental humidors. Durango was also named in the suit.Westberg filed criminal charges in September, but dropped the case after discovering Orios meets one of the requirements for an exemption: earning at least 5 percent of its income from tobacco sales.Under the smoking ban that went into effect July 1, casinos, some airport lounges and cigar bars are exempt. But many taverns that sold a lot of cigarettes before the law took effect say they qualify as cigar bars because the Colorado Indoor Air Act covers “tobacco products,” rather than specifying cigars.Complaints have been lodged against at least 47 businesses statewide for allowing smoking, but many of those businesses were seeking cigar-bar status, Kim Hills-Evans, executive director of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance, has said.State Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, has introduced a bill (House Bill 1108) to close that loophole by specifying revenues must come from the sale of cigars or cigar tobacco for a tavern to qualify as a cigar bar.At least five bills are pending in the Legislature to amend or clarify the smoking ban, including one that would allow smoking in small taverns or bars if owners pay an extra $500 for their liquor licenses.
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