Judge extends filing deadline in Tupelo smoking ban case

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A federal judge has given attorneys more time to file briefs in a case challenging Tupelo’s new smoking ban ordinance.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills extended the filing deadline by 20 days after Tupelo attorney Jason Shelton, who represents a handful of businesses opposed to the ordinance, requested additional time due to computer problems. The original deadline was Monday.

The ordinance generally prohibits smoking in public places. It calls for smokers to light up at least 25 feet from bars and restaurants’ front doors and 10 feet from the back or side doors.

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The owners of some bars and restaurants say the ordinance amounts to the city taking their profits by reducing the number of people who drink at the bars or eat out.

They also have argued that it encourages smokers to drink less because another city ordinance says customers can’t carry alcoholic beverages outside of the buildings. The ordinance went into effect Oct. 5.

After a hearing two weeks ago, Mills declined to issue an order that would stop enforcement of the smoking ban until the case could be decided. Instead, he changed some language in the ordinance.