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Charleston Stubs Out Cigar Bar

The key issue at the March 19 Charleston City Council meeting focused on the Club Havana cigar bar.

City Council has deliberated on the issue for a number of meetings. The topic of the most recent meeting was another amendment to the city’s no-smoking ordinance that would have allowed the cigar bar to move to new premises.

Council member James Lewis Jr. moved for acceptance and was immediately seconded by council member William Moody Jr.

But when a vote was taken, the motion failed, 7-5. Mayor Joe Riley was among those who supported the motion.

There was no discussion of the proposed amendment. Maybe council members thought that the issue has been discussed to death at previous meetings. But some members of the public again turned up to speak against the amendment.

There were the predictable comments about the ill effects of smoking and the intent of the original city ordinance.

One speaker noted that Club Havana had been allowed to survive because it was locked into a long-term lease with its landlord and a closure at that time would have imposed a heavy financial burden on the owner. There should be no rewriting of the ordinance to compensate the cigar bar for the loss of its lease, it was argued.

The speaker also referred to convoluted language that had been constructed in the amendment to allow the cigar bar to move to a new site.

The language of the proposed amendment indeed was convoluted. The final paragraph seems to have been written to apply to all cigar bars similar to Club Havana, yet there was only one cigar bar in existence – Club Havana.

The owner of Club Havana noted in the citizens’ participation portion of the meeting that he had been served an eviction notice. It made no difference to the majority of council members. The original ordinance stood without an amendment.

Club Havana, legally, has no place to go in Charleston in its existing form.

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