- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s Liquor Control Commission has decided to allow smoking at cigar bars, pending a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling.

The cigar bar owners will be able to renew their special licenses, which otherwise would have expired Oct. 31, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1vUU0sZ ).

Commission executive director Hobert Rupe told the newspaper that he’s been warning the bar owners that they might have only a few days to stop the smoking once the court rules. The underlying liquor licenses still would be good, Rupe said.

A ruling was not included among those issued by the state Supreme Court on Friday morning.

The court struck down exceptions to the state’s public smoking ban for cigar bars and tobacco shops un Aug. 29, but it spared the exception for designated hotel guestrooms in which smoking was allowed.

The court said the hotel rooms were akin to private homes. But the court said exceptions for cigar bars and tobacco retailers amounted to unconstitutional special legislation. The ruling stated that allowing patrons to smoke in cigar bars and tobacco shops simply because it was convenient didn’t conform to the purpose of the ban, “which is to protect the public and employees from the dangers of secondhand smoke.”

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office subsequently asked the court to rehear the case, arguing in part that the judges failed to properly consider that lawmakers intended to protect cigar bars and tobacco shops from going out of business. The court agreed, and in late September, it decided to let a group of eight cigar bars and tobacco shops submit a brief laying out its arguments for keeping the exemptions.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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