Cigar bar amendment not voted on at council

·3 min read

Sep. 28—The possibility of a cigar bar has been snubbed out, and if the issue ever relights, it has to start all over from the beginning.

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck let those who showed up at Monday's city council meeting know that despite the amendment to the smoking ordinance being listed on the meeting's agenda, that action had been removed from consideration, and the council would not vote on it.

Earlier in the day, Keck issued a statement letting the public know that the amendment would not be voted on at the meeting.

"Leaders listen, understanding when to push forward and when to press pause," Keck said. "City council members and I have listened to residents' concerns about the proposed smoking ordinance amendment and understand their point of view."

Local businessman Anthony Cox's Birdies and Barrels bar would've provided a venue for cigar connoisseurs to enjoy a smoke with their drink, while also enjoying simulated golf, among other attractions.

And while many seemed pleased with the new downtown business venture, there were also concerns from health-care officials and local residents about weakening the non-smoking ordinance.

Several non-smoking advocates from the health-care field were expected to voice their concerns at Monday's council meeting.

"While we're grateful to Mr. Cox for his investment downtown and remain supportive of his business, we have decided not to pursue amending the smoking ordinance," Keck added. "The effort that went into passing (the 2012 smoking ordinance) is widely appreciated and my administration has no desire to roll back the benefits we've seen as a result. We are experiencing too much positive momentum in Somerset to allow this issue to divide us."

Keck reiterated that stance during the meeting itself.

"This council heard from a tremendous amount of people, and it might not have been unanimous — I talked to several councilors who were adamantly for the cigar opportunity — but the vast majority of the feedback that I got, and most of the councilors got, was against it."

Keck also said that decision was made because he didn't want to do anything that would be detrimental to Cox's business.

With that, the amendment was dead. Keck said that should any similar change to the smoking ordinance be considered in the future, the process would start at the very beginning — and as of now, there were no plans to revisit it.

"For those that are concerned that we might bring it up without notice, hear it from me now: That won't happen. If we bring this back up for any reason, we'll start over and ensure that everyone in the public has the opportunity to hear and to weigh in," Keck said.

A group of citizens showed up at the meeting intending to speak out against the proposal. One of those people, Bob Boon, showed appreciation towards the mayor and council for their decision.

"We just want to say thank you for reconsidering. We appreciate the council listening to the citizens," he said.

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