On Tuesday after a lengthy discussion, Oak Grove City Council chose to table an amendment to the current smoking ordinance. Currently, Oak Grove has a partial smoking ban, only banning smoking inside restaurants.

The ordinance as it stands first defines the criteria to determine a restaurant and determines what smoking is. According to the ordinance, a restaurant is an establishment that serves food and beverages to be consumed on that property and any establish that has 50% or more of its gross annual income from the sale of food.

The ordinance simply states, "No person shall smoke within any restaurant within the city of Oak Grove."

"The way it currently applies is that it's only restaurants," Oak Grove City Attorney Mark Gilbert said. "So, no other public businesses or buildings have any kind of smoking ban."

The new ordinance was

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drafted after officials from the future horseracing track approached Oak Grove Mayor Theresa Jarvis asking for more clarification as to what a restaurant is. In other words, the ordinance would more clearly determine if a place that sells food could be determined a restaurant or otherwise.

The new amendment to the ordinace was intended to add more clarifying wording as to what constitutes a restaurant.

The new wording says, "With respect to any establishment owned by a proprietor, which such establishment has one or more separate areas within the same physical structure, including an area or areas where food is served, then the gross annual income of the entire establishment, not limited to the area(s) where food is served, shall be utilized in determining whether the establishment exceeds the foregoing 50% gross income threshold to be deemed a restaurant."

Public concern and councilmembers' perspectives

While Oak Grove does not have a smoking ban for any other public businesses or buildings, some residents shared concerns Tuesday night at the council meeting that Kentucky has a state-wide ban on smoking indoors in public businesses and indoor smoking should not be allowed anywhere.

That public concern, coupled with similar concerns from councilmembers, sparked discussion by a few councilmembers Tuesday that the ordinance amendment wasn't necessary and instead, the council should re-evaluate the ordinance in its entirety.

"The ordinance as it currently stands is already an issue," Councilwoman Kisha Mische-Jeffrey said. "(The race track) would technically already be able to allow smoking within their establishment. They wanted it to be even more clear; that's what the amendment was for.

"But, for me personally, I can't speak for anybody else, it's less about just the amendment to the ordinance than it is about the ordinance in general."

Councilwomen Janet Edwards and Gene Leavell also shared that concern during Tuesday night's meeting. Due to those concerns and added concerns of other outdated ordinances, the council chose to table the smoking amendment and create a committee of the whole to review those ordinances.

Jeffrey shared that she hopes and plans to spearhead the re-evaluation of the smoking ordinance.

"My goal would be to convince my fellow councilmembers to change the ordinance in such a way that it doesn't allow smoking in any establishment," Jeffrey said. "I think outdoor smoking is feasible, but I don't see why we would allow smoking indoors at any place."

Jeffrey added that she is a smoker herself but still believes that smoking indoors is a health issue and should not be allowed in the city. She continued to say that she is separate her personal opinion and prioritizing public health and safety.

"I just don't agree with the public health risk," she said. "I don't think it's in the public's best interest."

Whether or not there will be an exception in the future for the race track is unclear, however, many of the responses by Oak Grove residents have been in opposition to allowing smoking indoors. Jeffrey, Edwards and Leavell shared that opposition.

No official date has been established yet for the first Oak Grove Committee of the Whole meeting, but Jeffrey shared that she is currently working to schedule a date and has been in contact with other councilmembers.

Reach Avery Seeger at 270-887-3236 or aseeger@kentuckynewera.com. Follow him on Twitter @AveryNewEra.

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