The application caught Grand Traverse County Health Department officials by surprise because the 2009 legislation amends two separate laws: one bans smoking in public places but includes a few exemptions such as cigar bars; the other bans smoking in food service establishments.
“Initially, this threw us for a loop,” said Tom Buss, director of environmental health. “I was thinking there was no way you could have an establishment with smoking and eating together, but apparently there is this unwritten exemption.”
The Michigan Department of Community Health ruled in 2010 that lawmakers intended the exemptions to apply universally across both laws.
City Commissioners Jim Carruthers and Tim Werner raised questions that temporarily bumped the application off the city’s meeting agenda.
Carruthers said he and Werner hadn’t heard of the exemption and wanted to make sure Nolan’s request wasn’t an “end-around” the state smoking ban.
“It’s in the law and I’m allowed to do it,” Nolan said. “The state collects humongous taxes from us, 32 percent, and in order for us to stay in business they offered us a one-time exemption because they want to collect our taxes. “
Commissioners will revisit the liquor license application on April 7.