COLUMBIA -- A deal might be in the works that would ban smoking in all Columbia workplaces including bars.
Councilman E.W. Cromartie, one of the four council members who voted to exempt bars from the city's smoking ban, is having second thoughts about the issue.
"I think we may have to look at that again," Cromartie said. "It has been some time since the last time we voted."
Only one council member would have to change his or her vote for the issue to be reconsidered.
The change comes after hearing complaints from restaurant and bar owners.
Andy Yogherty, owner of the Publick House on Devine Street, pleaded with council members earlier this week to change their minds. He said excluding bars penalizes businesses, such as his, that have both a restaurant and a bar.
If there is to be a smoking ban, he said, it should be enforced across the board. Yogherty apparently struck a chord with Cromartie.
"I listen to the people we serve," Cromartie said. "I think it's something we can take a look at."
Cromartie, along with council members Kirkman Finlay, Sam Davis and Daniel Rickenmann, agreed in November 2006 to ban smoking in all Columbia workplaces except bars.
Mayor Bob Coble and council members Tameika Isaac Devine and Anne Sinclair wanted a total smoking ban.
At the time, the smoking ban was not enforced because of a pending state Supreme Court case looking at the legality of local smoking bans.
Last month, the court ruled the bans were legal so long as violations were not criminal offenses. Council members then modified their original ordinance to make enforcing the smoking ban a civil penalty, and they gave the ordinance initial approval at Wednesday's council meeting with no discussion.
It is set to take effect July 1.
Coble said he would not try to force another vote on the smoking ban, unless one of the other four council members switched his vote.
With Cromartie on the fence, there is an opening for Coble and others to force a new vote. But with the original ordinance already given first approval and on the agenda for the next council meeting for final approval Coble said he would bring up a new ordinance instead of modifying the old one.
"I have not followed up with E.W. yet," Coble said. "I would very much like to see a total ban."
Finlay, who supports exempting bars from the smoking ban, said for one council member to change his or her mind negates "hours of public discussion" and typifies the small group mentality of council.
"This is so typical of what's going on with city council," he said. "Small groups and individuals getting together as opposed to any kind of formal discussion."