No smoking in Brownsville bars

Kathy Jennings is the owner of Southwinds Lounge in Brownsville.

She TMs been a bar owner in Brownsville for 52 years, and although she is not a smoker, she said she TMs worried about a smoking ban approved Tuesday by city commissioners.

Jennings said with many of her clients being smokers, she fears the ordinance will put her out of business. City officials said the ban eliminates second hand smoking dangers, but Jennings disagrees.

"I've been around the smoke for over 52 years and sometimes working 15 to 18 hours a day, Jennings said. I TMm 75 going on 76 and it looks to me like, if second hand (smoke) affects you, I should already be dead." Commissioners were evenly split on the issue. Mayor Tony Martinez cast the deciding vote in favor of the smoking ban ordinance.

It applies to bars, nursing homes, bingo halls, health care facilities and city buildings. Commissioner John Villarreal voted against the ordinance.

He said much of the research compiled for the ordinance, cited cities like San Antonio and Austin. He adds Brownsville does not compare to those cities which implement similar bans.

"We count mainly on our local residents, we don TMt count on that level of tourism, therefore we don TMt really import money from other places, Villarreal said. It's our own money that's circulated here." According to Jennings, commissioners didn't do enough to find a middle ground on the issue.

She said bar owners pay a 14 percent tax rate - money that goes back to the city and state.

Jennings also said many of her smoking clients are war veterans who fought to defend people's rights.

She feels her rights as a business owner have been taken away.

"I don TMt have anything left if I go out of business and I cannot live off of Social Security alone, Jennings said. I have no husband, I have no other income coming in, and what right do they have to dictate what we do in our business, as long as we are not breaking the law."

The smoking ban is set to go into effect in 60 days. City Health Department officials said they will help business owners with some free no smoking signs.

Jennings and other bar owners are still looking to fight the ordinance.