Judge OKs delay for smoking hearing

Wichita smokers can light up in the bars a little longer.

Sedgwick County District Judge Eric Yost has approved a request to delay a hearing on whether to extend a temporary restraining order that prevents the statewide indoor smoking ban from being enforced in Wichita.

The hearing was moved from July 15 to Aug. 19, according to a district court official. The Kansas Attorney General's Office requested the continuance.

Yost issued a temporary restraining order June 18 on behalf of three Wichita businesses: Mort's Cigar Bar, Walt's Sports Bar, and Phoenician Room and Heat Cigar Bar & Hookah Lounge.

The statewide smoking ban went into effect July 1. It bans indoor smoking in restaurants, bars, workplaces and other public areas. But it contains exemptions, including for tobacco shops and the gaming floors of state-owned casinos.

Wichita lawyer Harry Najim argued on behalf of the three local businesses that Wichita's smoking ban is more restrictive than the state's.

Najim said that the state law exempts private clubs that were licensed before Jan. 1, 2009, and designated smoking areas of adult care homes.

The city ordinance, which does not carry similar exemptions, says proprietors can allow smoking if they buy a special permit, upgrade their ventilation systems and limit smoking-optional rooms to adults.

The city's law department recommended that the City Council vote Tuesday to replace the city's law with the state's.

But council members Friday said they want to wait until a judge rules on the temporary restraining order before voting to mirror state law.