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The No. 1 Priority of Dallas Hotels Is Seeking Amendment
 to Smoking Ban in Hotel Meeting Rooms
By Emily Ramshaw, The Dallas Morning News
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Oct. 26, 2004 - Was Dallas' strict smoking ban just a pipe dream?

City Council members will vote Wednesday on whether to amend the nearly 2-year-old ordinance to allow smoking in bingo parlors and private hotel and motel meeting rooms.

Proponents say these two industries have been unfairly affected by the no-smoking policy, which restricts every public venue except freestanding bars and outdoor patios. But critics say it would be a step backward for the council, which fought a tough battle to pass the ordinance.

"For me, it is completely the wrong direction, and most citizens agree with that," Dallas Mayor Laura Miller said. "In my opinion, the only way to go is to make the ban stronger, not weaker."

Sandi Bailey, executive vice president of the Hotel Association of Greater Dallas, said this amendment has been a long time in coming. Four months after the ban went into effect, 11 downtown hotels reported a combined revenue loss of $1.5 million.

"This has been the No. 1 priority from the hotel community because it's in the best economic interest of the industry," she said. "This has hurt Dallas."

But Dallas restaurateurs say the amendment leaves them behind.

Tracey Evers, executive director of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, said she's interested in seeing what the council's vote will mean.

"It certainly might set a precedent," she said.

Council member Sandy Greyson said restaurants aren't on the agenda.

"I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but right now, nobody is moving forward with anything related to restaurants," she said.

But the mayor said any amendment could be dangerous.

"Opening this at all is not a good idea," she said. "I'm voting against both changes."

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