VFW gets exception from city on smoking

06/03/2014 11:46 AM

06/03/2014 11:47 AM

In February, Weatherford’s City Council made the decision to ban smoking in local businesses serving food or drinks after taking time to seek the city’s resident’s pleasure.

But at its May 27 meeting, which was filled so only standing room was available, the council agreed with a 4-1 vote to make an exception to the new ordinance.

The local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) members, as a private club that only welcomes the public a couple times a month at fundraisers, will be allowed to govern for themselves whether they will allow smoking or not.

Representing the VFW, Roger Blair said they are more than willing to make those fundraisers non-smoking or only allow it outdoors.

"I have the utmost respect for y’all," council member Jeff Robinson said, but he also feared that allowing smoking might keep away other members who would attend otherwise, even quoting the 2007 president of the organization as saying the same thing.

Blair said the local VFW has about 250 members, approximately half of whom attend regularly. About 60 percent of those, Blair says, smoke while the others do not seem to mind. In certain areas of the building, smoking is already banned.

The council also expressed concern of how far exceptions might have to go if they allowed this one.

"Where do you draw the line with exceptions?" council member Heidi Wilder said. "Is it fair to allow one over the other?"

Because the VFW is a private club that members pay a fee to be a part of, Mayor Dennis Hooks said he believes they should decide for themselves, especially considering the high initiation fee.

"I think we can govern ourselves," agreed VFW member Joe Lockett. "We’ve earned that right."

With the 4-1 vote, city staff will rewrite the ordinance listing the VFW as an exception and also consider whether they would like to include other, similar private or non-profit clubs in that exception.

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