The City Council’s Human Services Committee voted 3-2 this evening to ban smoking in all Evanston bars and restaurants beginning July 1.

The measure now goes to the full City Council for action.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, introduced the proposal with a Jan. 1, 2007, effective date but readily accepted an amendment from Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, making the ordinance effective six months sooner.

“The earlier we end it, the better opportunity we have to save someone’s life,” Ald. Moran said.

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, suggested following the deadlines set in Chicago’s ordinance, which would not ban smoking in restaurant bar areas until July 2008.

“Our economy is largely based on restaurants, and I just don’t think we can compete if our restaurants don’t have a level playing field with those in Chicago,” Ald. Bernstein said, although he added that he personally won’t go to any establishment that allows smoking.

Ald. Moran said he believes the arguments about competitive disadvantage have largely been refuted. “The experience in many places,” he said, “is that places actually do better when they go smoke free.”

Thirty-three Evanston establishments currently permit smoking – 22 bars plus 11 restaurants without liquor licenses.

The aldermen voted to keep an exemption for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Health and Human Services Director Jay Terry said bans there would likely drive the residents to smoke in nearby parks or commercial districts, creating conflicts with other community residents.

Four residents spoke in favor of the smoking ban at the committee meeting. No one spoke in opposition to it, but aldermen indicated that some local restaurant owners and the Chamber of Commerce had urged them to not move any faster than Chicago in imposing the ban.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, voted for the ordinance. Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, voted against it, but indicated he could support the enforcement date of March 2007 adopted by Cook County in its smoking ban ordinance.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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