WILKES-BARRE – A city bar has become the first in Luzerne County to be cited with violating the state’s smoking ban.
The Arena Bar and Grill on Coal Street was cited Jan. 9, less than a month after it received a warning letter for allegedly violating the 4-month-old law.
According to Sgt. Gary S. Severns, district office commander for the state police Bureau of Liquor Control, an officer witnessed patrons at the bar openly smoking and using bar-issued ashtrays in front of employees. The officer also noted the failure to post a sign, as required by the Clean Indoor Air Act, stating the establishment is smoke-free. The law took effect on Sept. 11.
An administrative law judge can issue a fine ranging from $50 to $1,000, according to Severns.
A man who identified himself as the owner of the bar refused to give his name. He said he had not received a citation and he has “no idea what they’re talking about,” adding he does not allow smoking in his tavern. He refused to comment further.
While the Arena Bar was the first cited in the county, Severns said he could “guarantee it won’t be the last.”
He said the first few months after the law was passed, his office and other agencies who have enforcement power under the law were “taking an educational approach. Now I think the word is out, there’s going to be more (citations) coming.”
“This is a hot-button issue right now,” Severns said. “We were mostly issuing warnings. Now the citations will begin to roll.”
The Arena is joined on the alleged violator’s list by Sheba’s Palace, a bar on Sanderson Avenue in Throop. On Jan. 9, it became the first in Lackawanna County cited for violating the smoking ban.
Sheba’s Palace faces a fine up to $1,000 for allowing smokers to light up on its premises.
Sheba’s could not be reached for comment.