Bar Owners Alter Strategy to Fight Smoking Ban

After months of fighting a countywide smoking ban through protest and other traditional means, Kanawha County, West Virginia, bar owners are being advised to try a new strategy: filing insurance claims.

The West Virginia Association of Club Owners & Fraternal Services is urging the claims be filed against the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health for committing a "wrongful act" when it passed the smoking ban.

To the chagrin of fuming bar owners, the health board passed the countywide ban and it took effect July 1. Owners took to the streets of Charleston on August 4, claiming the ban has had a negative impact on the local economy.

And they have data to prove it, not just anecdotal claims. According to the state Lottery Commission, bar customers spent $1.2 million less gambling from June to July, a 9 percent decrease. West Virginia legalized the use of video lottery machines in bars in 2004.

Jesse Banes, spokesman for the club owners association, believes this loss of state tax revenue is enough evidence for lawmakers to take a second look at the legislation, perhaps even rescind it.

"Only the state Legislature has the means to increase or decrease tax revenue, not the Kanawha County Board of Health," Bane told The Charleston Gazette.

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