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Bar loses smoke ban challenge

In the first test of Washington state’s new clean indoor air act in Spokane County, a judge has ruled against a Spokane Valley bar that was allowing patrons to smoke.

Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque on Thursday granted the Spokane Regional Health District’s request to force the Yardley Bar and Grill to comply with the law, which went into effect Dec. 8.

Health district inspectors found the bar in violation four times between Dec. 30 and Jan. 30.

“It’s encouraging to us that the system worked the way it is supposed to work,” said Maggie Merrill, tobacco prevention and control program manager for the health district. “It’s finally creating an even playing field for businesses in Spokane County.”

A similar injunction against the Casa Que Pasa bar and restaurant in Bellingham was upheld in Whatcom County in February, the Bellingham Herald reported.

Two other Spokane County bars, the Lone Cactus Saloon in Mead and G. Litzees Tavern in Spokane Valley, settled with the district before their cases went to trial. Those bars are now in compliance, Merrill said.

The Yardley’s owner, Greg Phillips, challenged the constitutionality of the law barring smoking in bars, restaurants and other public business or within 25 feet of doors and air vents, according to court documents. Voters overwhelmingly approved the law in a ballot initiative last November.

Phillips, through his attorney, David M. Miller, also tried to cast doubt on the actual inspections, claiming the law was vague as to enforcement.

“I believe this act is not void for vagueness because ordinary people could understand the provisions of the act,” Leveque wrote. Neither Phillips nor his attorney could be reached for comment late Thursday.

The Yardley must pay $1,475 in fines and inspection fees as a result of the ruling, according to a health district spokeswoman.