Harlingen city leaders consider proposal to ban smoking at all bars

Harlingen city leaders are considering proposal to ban smoking at all bars

After a busy day at work, Steven Fujan likes to go to locals lounge in Harlingen to have a drink and smoke a cigar.

However, he could soon lose that option, if city commissioners approve a proposed smoking ban at all bars.

He said city officials are out of line.

"None of the government people put-up their money to open this place the owners, worked hard strived to build this place into their own entity, Fujan said. They provide jobs (and) they pay taxes."

The first reading for the possible ordinance was approved on April 16th, sparking strong opposition by bar owners like Annie Pesina, she said more than 70 percent of her customers are smokers, and during this economy, "every dollar makes a difference."

She argues city leaders didn't even bother notifying them about the possible change or gathering input from them.

"They should've notified us with plenty of time so that we could've been prepared as well as they were, Pesina said. They had their surveys done, they had their experts, they had statistics - they had everything prepared and we didn't have anything prepared."

Pesina doesn't believe a smoking ban would put her bar out of business, but it will impact her clientele and might even force other bar owners to close their doors.

Fujan said there are already plenty of options for non-smokers, and it should be the same for smokers.

"Nobody wants to get-up in the middle of a conversation because they want to go have a cigarette or smoke their cigar, Fujan said.

Anthony Leos likes to accompany his cocktail with a light cigarette. He said seeing as other Valley cities have adopted similar ordinances, he's not surprised it's now a proposal in Harlingen, but for him, it's not a problem.

I can always go outside or what not, so it's not going to affect me," Leos said.

City commissioners approved the first reading, pending more research on the issue, including how e-cigarettes would be addressed in the ban.

Staff has 30 days to report their findings, so commissioners can make a final decision.

Bar owners are petitioning for signatures to oppose the smoking ban.