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Somerset City Council held the first reading of an amendment that would allow cigar bars inside the city limits – the first major change to the smoking ban since it was adopted in 2012.

The amendment would only allow cigar smoking indoors in properly licensed businesses.

No one under the age of 21 would be allowed in the designated smoking area. Only cigars and pipes would be allowed to be smoked – no cigarettes or other tobacco products would be allowed.

The change reads, in part, “Whereas cigar smoking has a long history of cultural celebration and tradition in acknowledgement of personal freedom, whereas the popularity of cigars and the smoking thereof have developed into a cultural phenomenon, are perceived less harmful than other tobacco products ... [have] specific regulation, lower tax rates and higher social acceptability, whereas cigar smoking has evolved into a social activity synonymous with the very Kentucky traditions of horse racing, bourbon and winning sports teams …”

Mayor Alan Keck answered several questions from council members, including one from John Ricky Minton, who wanted to clarify that customers would not be allowed to smoke outdoors.

The mayor pointed out that the rest of the ordinance would remain in affect, including the rule that smoking cannot take place within 10 feet of any public access.

Minton also asked if a business adjoined other businesses, how the smoke would be contained.

“What’s going to happen if they start smelling smoke and say, ‘Hey, it’s affecting us?” Minton asked.

Keck said that, to his understanding, if it were a fully-contained area, the smoke couldn’t be smelled from outside or at another business.

Keck also said there were strict restrictions written into the amendment, so not just anyone could try to become a cigar bar, including a $7,500 license fee.

“The smoking ban would stay in place in restaurants and bars,” Keck said.

Keck said that the amendment was being considered due to an incoming business – Birdies and Barrels at the corner of East Mount Vernon and South Maple Street – which would have other entertainment options to go along with the cigar bar. “The main floor would be a normal establishment. The upstairs is scheduled to have golf simulators, and then you would have cigars as an offshoot upstairs,” Keck said.

He added that the owner planned on investing hundreds of thousands of dollars. “I do think it’s an amenity we don’t have, that’s not being offered. It’s something I certainly support,” Keck said.

The council will hold the second reading and vote on the amendment at its September 27 meeting.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council held the first reading of a zone change that would reclassify a newly-annexed property from a Residential-1 (single-family dwelling) to a Residential-3 (multi-family dwelling).

The property in question is located at 1156 Ky. 39.

When some councilors questioned what was going to go in at the property, Council Member Amanda “Bean” Bullock said that documentation from the owners said they felt there was a need for elderly housing.

However, Council Member David Burdine said he had heard the owner wasn’t sure what was going there.

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