A revamped bill that would create licenses for cigar bars and cigar lounges in Washington State was filed in the Washington state house today, and according to Joe Arundel, president of the Cigar Association of Washington and co-owner of Rain City Cigar in Seattle, has cigar retailers feeling more optimistic this year than last.
A similar bill passed both the state house and senate in the 2011-12 legislative session before former governor Christine Gregoire promised a veto should the measure get to her desk. Gregoire is a staunch anti-tobacco advocate and one of the key players in 1998’s Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement when she was Attorney General for the state.
House Bill 1750 would create licenses for cigar bars and cigar lounges in the state and would finally open the door to indoor cigar and pipe smoking in those establishments. Caps would be put on the amount of licenses created: 100 cigar bars and 500 cigar lounges.
The bill has two notable changes from last year’s House Bill 2565: the first is that the licenses would be transferable, making them even more of an asset for anyone who holds one and possibly spurring business owners to act early in the licensing process. The second change reduces the initial application fee and renewal fees. For cigar bars, the initial fee would be $19,000 for the first year and $7,000 for a renewal, a change from the previous fee of $17,000 for the first year and each subsequent renewal. For cigar lounges, the fees in the new bill would be $7,000 for the first year and $2,500 per renewal, a change of $6,000 per year in the previous bill. The money raised by the licenses would go to funding the state’s smoking cessation helpline.
The bill only covers cigars and pipes – not cigarettes, meaning that a shop or bar owner would be required to prevent cigarette smoking in their establishment. Enforcement of the law, if passed, would be handled by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
The bill now heads through the house committee process to work out any wrinkles. “We have a fresh approach with Jay Inslee,” said Arundel, referring to the recently elected governor. “Now we need the cigar community throughout the state to reach out to their state representatives and senators and encourage them to get behind this bill,” Arundel added. A simliar bill, Senate Bill 5070, is already in process in the other chamber.
Cigar smokers and those interested in voicing their opinions on the matter can contact their elected state officials through this site.