As county health officials look for ways to get tougher with smoking scofflaws, the Niagara County Board of Health slapped four bars with fines Thursday for violating the state indoor smoking ban. It also granted a waiver from the law to a North Tonawanda bar.
Two of those fined were repeat violators: Gervasi's Bar & Grill on Pine Avenue in Niagara Falls and the Broadway Hotel on Main Street in North Tonawanda. They were fined $500 each.
Mr. Quiggley's on West Avenue in Lockport and Al's Family Billiards and Darts on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda were fined $250 each for first offenses.
Public Health Director Paulette M. Kline said she plans to begin recommending stiffer fines because of the number of repeat offenders. The law allows the board to impose fines up to $1,000.
"On the first violation, I will look at the specific circumstances," Kline said, "but if there's blatant tobacco use in the establishment, I think we need to get aggressive."
"This law has been in effect for going on two years. Everybody who runs a bar should know what the law is," said board member Dr. Louis Kramer of Niagara Falls.
Assistant County Attorney J. Michael Fitzgerald said the board will vote next month on an amendment to the sanitary code that will allow the board to revoke the food service license of establishments who repeatedly violate the smoking law.
So far, the State Liquor Authority has shown little interest in lifting the liquor licenses of those offenders, but Kline and Kramer said they've talked to officials at that agency and their views may be changing.
Fitzgerald said the county is targeting one bar as a test case to present to the SLA, but he declined to identify the bar.
The board granted a waiver to the Little Club on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.
Board President Steven C. Lewis, a Lockport veterinarian, said the waiver application was the best he's seen yet.
It calls for the separate smoking room to be glassed in so smokers can see out. It's near a set of pool tables which are on a platform above the main bar.