First, the Council, at our request, repealed Article III of Chapter 10 of the City Code, “Mechanical Amusement Devices, Pool Tables and Entertainments.” This ordinance created a licensing process for businesses, open to the public, who wanted to have pool tables, claw machines, video games, things like that. The businesses were required to pay a fee and undergo inspections by our fire, police and building departments. Each machine or device required a fee. The ordinance was first enacted back in the 1980’s when the Council was concerned for young people hanging around arcades. Times and technology have changed. We have about 14 establishments in the city that fell under the ordinance. Council voted unanimously for the repeal.
Secondly, we asked them to replace that ordinance with a new one regulating smoking lounges. Here is a link: 2013 Smoking Lounges Ord.
On August 5, 2013 City Council voted to place a moratorium on the opening of new smoking lounge businesses in the City for 180 days while staff studied the issue. Ultimately we recommended that the City license the smoking lounges. We proposed an annual license with a fee to be determined, which would allow the City better management of these businesses.
Since the State of Michigan enacted Public Act 188 of 2009 to prohibit smoking in public places smoking lounges have become increasingly popular. Cigar Bars and Tobacco Specialty Retail Stores that qualify and were in existence on May 1, 2010, are exempt from the smoking in public prohibition. Currently there are 2 established lounges with 1 in development. THe state guesses that there are about 200 of these exemptions around the state, no new ones are being granted. Before the moratorium licenses could be transferred into the City at any time without limit from anywhere in the state.
Adverse impacts associated with these establishments have been identified such as large numbers of patrons during the evening and night-time, crowds overflowing into parking areas and impeding on nearby businesses, leaving behind trash, broken alcohol bottles and debris, incidents requiring police response, fights, alcohol possession on unlicensed premises, traffic, noise, and complaints from neighboring businesses and residents. The purpose of this ordinance is to regulate smoking lounges for the public health, safety, and welfare of the City. We are also aware that other neighboring communities have been experiencing the same issues and several have acted to pass ordinances setting limits on the lounges.
The ordinance is designed to establish reasonable and uniform regulations to prevent potential adverse impacts. It sets a mandatory closing time and does not allow any more transfer of licenses into the city. Currently there are 2 smoking lounges with one in development. The lounges currently operating have 180 days to apply for licensing but the closing time will apply to them immediately upon written notice from us.