A proposal to exempt private clubs from York County's smoking ban is either an effort to help businesses or a loophole waiting to be exploited, council members say.
The proposal, slated for discussion at Monday's County Council meeting, was requested by Councilmember Paul Lindemann, bolstered by a group of bar owners and workers who claim the ban is hurting business.
County Council Chairman Buddy Motz supports the smoking ban, arguing that smoking is a public health issue. He said that the amendment would create loopholes that would weaken the ban.
"Whenever you start giving an exemption, you just open up a door for others to go through," he said.
Lindemann disagrees, arguing that the amendment improves the ban by making it more specific.
"A lot of people are making a big stink about this because they think it's going to water down the smoking ban," he said. "We're talking 15-20 businesses."
The proposed amendment goes beyond Fort Mill's smoking ordinance, which only exempts non-profit private clubs, such as the VFW and American Legion.
Under the proposed amendment, for-profits establishments will be able to gain "private club" status and be exempt from the ban if they meet a few guidelines.
Those requirements include collecting annual dues, catering only to members 21 years old or older, creating a board of directors or similar body and writing bylaws or a governing constitution.
Private club operators will also have to post signs and ensure that all members and employees acknowledge in writing the danger of tobacco smoke.
Even if the amendment finds support Monday night, how to define "private clubs" adequately could prompt some debate.
"It's an amendment that's worth while if we can get the language right...what would constitute 'private,'" County Councilman Roy Blake said.
Lindemann is happy with the amendment as written.
"This isn't something we are going to make rocket science. We want to make this easy," he said.
County Attorney Melvin McKeown said he's not sure of its future.
"Nobody may be happy with it," McKeown said.
Council's options are giving the amendment first reading, suggesting changes or rejecting it.
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The York County Council meets at 6 p.m. Monday in the council's chambers, located in the Agricultural Building, 6 S. Congress St., York.