Omaha pool hall sues state over smoking ban

An Omaha pool hall filed a lawsuit against the state of Nebraska this week over the statewide smoking ban that is soon to go into effect.

Big John’s Billiards asked a Lancaster County judge to declare the Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act unconstitutional and to grant an order to keep the state from enforcing the act, pending the resolution of the lawsuit.

The pool hall’s attorney, Theodore Boecker Jr., asked: If the the act is meant to protect the public and employees from the dangers of secondhand smoke, why should employees of cigar bars and other exempt businesses be entitled to any less protection?
courtsThe act is set to begin June 1, and includes exemptions for hotel/motel guestrooms and suites, laboratories, tobacco retail outlets and cigar bars.

Boecker said employees of Big John’s Billiards should have “the freedom of choice to consent to such exposure” and argued the “cigar bar” exemption gave special privileges to exempt businesses.

He said the court “must strike down the entire ban.”

Boecker said the smoking ban will reduce revenue for the pool hall.

The pool hall has put up a sign that warns customers smoking is allowed inside, has installed “smoke eaters” to provide for clean air for its patrons and has warned prospective employees that cheap cigarettes is allowed there, the lawsuit said.

Big John’s Billiards has a 13,000-square-foot location in Omaha, which opened in 1980, and a nearly identical one in Lincoln that opened four years later.

The Nebraska Supreme Court n 2008 turned down a request by Big John’s for a waiver from the Clean Indoor Air Act, forcing it to create a nonsmoking section or ban smoking altogether.

The Omaha location of Big John’s had been exempt from the city’s smoking ban until 2011 because it is a keno outlet.

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