Nebraska’s first cigar bars under a new law could start appearing in October.
The law, which prohibits such bars from serving food or allowing smoking, takes effect later this month. But first, the state Liquor Control Commission must establish rules on how it will enforce the law.
All eligible cigar bars must post at least 10 percent of their sales from cigarettes online buy. The bars also must have a walk-in humidor that fits more than two people.
Authorities will check cigar bars’ records to ensure the bars aren’t trying to get around a statewide smoking ban.
Anti-smoking groups want to make sure the smoke doesn’t creep into other businesses or crack the door open next year for lawmakers to allow further exemptions.
John Larkin will be one of the first in line for applications when the state begins to allow smoking in cigar bars. Larkin owns Jake’s Cigars in Lincoln. He wants to open for the first Husker football game.
“You can count on us when this thing goes into effect,” Larkin said.
He is installing a ventilation system that can handle smoke from a bar twice his bar’s size. Larkin said the privilege of allowing smoking in bars is one he’ll fight to keep.
“We will follow the letter of the law. If nothing else, for fear of punishment,” he said. Violators caught fudging their sales numbers or breaking any other rules can lose their liquor license.
The commission is expected to vote on the proposed rules in September. The new law is being challenged in court.
Big John’s Billiard in Omaha has argued that the smoking ban is unconstitutional because it’s arbitrary and amounts to special legislation.