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Deferred law prohibiting smoking, vaping products in Nashville bars stirs up debate

One man, sitting at the bar counter with cigarette in ash tray (Photo: Getty Images)
One man, sitting at the bar counter with cigarette in ash tray (Photo: Getty Images)
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An anti-smoking and vaping ordinance is stirring up debate among Nashville bar and club owners.

While some council members say getting rid of all indoor smoking would protect workers and musicians, owners of some 21-and-up bars say it will drive them out of business.

Santa’s pub is a Nashville staple. It is a dive bar in a double-wide that's advertised as a smoking bar.

The owner, Denzel Irwin, who goes by "Santa" lights up before starting the interview.

“I ain’t quittin’ smokin’," Irwin said. "I’ve been smoking since I was nine years old. I’ve smoked for 63 years so I’m not ready to quit."

Irwin says if Metro bans all smoking in bars, it will hurt his business.

“I’d lose half of my customers. Half of my business. A lot of them smoke here, the old-timers, they’ll come in, listen to their karaoke, and smoke a cigarette. I think they should be able to,” Irwin added.

On Tuesday, council tabled the law, but not before plenty of back and forth.

Some want to grandfather in places like Santa’s.

“There's very few places in Nashville where you can still smoke indoors,” Council Member Sean Parker said.

But others say the ban needs to be total.

“This is about protecting our hospitality workers and musicians that create economic impact for the city,” Council Member Jeff Syracuse said.

Councilman Freddie O’Connell called for the deferral.

Reporter: “Some council members were not wanting it to be deferred. They wanted the vote to be last night. They say it's because they are concerned about the health of Nashvillians. What’s your response?”

"I was a little surprised by that line of reasoning given that whether we passed it last night or whether we passed it in two weeks, the effective date of the bill isn't until March,” O’Connell said.

As it is currently written, the rule broadly prohibits smoking and vaping products in venues 21 and over.

This has one cannabis bar in Germantown, Buds & Brews, worried it will shut down part of their business.

Buds & brews offers cannabis infused sauces, beverages, and cartridges available for vaping.

“Everybody coming here, that’s what they want. They want that kind of environment. So, if they shut that down then it shuts down part of our revenue stream for part of our business,” Buds & Brews Owner Michael Solomon said.

Councilman O’Connell tells FOX 17 News he wants to create an amendment that would possibly carve out vaping and protect businesses like Buds & Brews.

The ordinance was pushed to next council meeting. Stick with FOX 17 News for the latest on this.

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