Businesses mull appeal of smoking ban; Harrah's waves white flag

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Several French Quarter bars and restaurants owners say they will weigh their options before deciding whether to appeal the defeat of their civil lawsuit against the city's smoking ordinance.

On Wednesday, Judge Robin Giarrusso ruled in favor of New Orleans' smoking ban that started in April.

Harrah's Casino, Pat O'Brien's, Maspero's, Rick's Cabaret and Cat's Meow are among the 50 businesses that filed a lawsuit. However, Harrah's later dropped out.

Harrah's spokesperson Jade Russell said at this time, the casino will not sue the city again over the smoking ban.

"At this point, we got to operate this place," Russell said. "That's what we've been turning our attention to, our employees and our patrons."

French Quarter business owners said customers are leaving their businesses to light up, and not coming back.

"The problem is the people who smoke are sitting in our bar, they have a drink, and instead of having four or five more, they go outside to smoke with their drink and they walk on down the street," said Bourbon Street bar owner Earl Bernhardt said. "We lose them. So it's costing us a lot of business."

Businesses argued to the court that the New Orleans City Council did not consider the loss of sales tax and revenue before approving the ban. Attorneys for the plaintiffs also said the council did not follow the correct procedure in passing the measure.

In the court's judgment, it ruled the council did not violate any procedures.

Supporters of the ban believe it will save lives. Mayor Mitch Landrieu agrees.

“The smoke-free ordinance is an important public health measure that will save lives and improve health outcomes. We have been incredibly pleased by the outpouring of support we've received for the ordinance, and we are grateful to both residents and employers for their help and cooperation in its implementation,” Landrieu said.

Some owners think the lost business will cost them employees. The businesses hoped to create their own exceptions to the law.

Supporters of the ban believe it will save lives.

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