Wausau police respond to first reported smoking ban violation
By Heather Sawaski
WAUSAU (WAOW) -- Wausau police respond to the first reported violation to the state's new smoking ban. But business owners take their fight for the right to light up to court.
It happened at the Red Apple Social Club Saturday night. It's a business with a smokey history. According to police, an upset customer notified officers of people smoking inside.
"He didn't think that was fair to his family," said Wausau Police Chief Jeff Hardel. "He went there to eat and expected them to abide by the new smoking ban."
Chief Hardel said officers went into the restaurant and witnessed one person lighting up.
"They identified that individual and also spoke with a waitress and a manager and advised them that they were in violation of the state-wide ban," he explained.
Citations were not given at that time because of a computer problem. Hardel said the issue was handed over to the District Attorney's Office.
But this isn't the first time owners of Red Apple are being accused of illegally blowing smoke. According to the City Attorney's Office, the club currently has 6 pending smoking violation charges. They stem from violations of employees and customers dating back over the last 5 years, since the City of Wausau enacted its own smoking ordinance in restaurants.
The attorney for Red Apple told Newsline 9 they're fighting the citations. That's because the business is considered a "private club." Members must pay a $1 lifetime fee to get in, so he believes police need a warrant to enter the building. And since a warrant was never issued on any of those occasions, the attorney believes any evidence collected by police should be dismissed.
However, the Police Chief sees things differently.
"It's their responsibility to make sure all their patrons are abiding by the smoking ban," Chief Hardel added.
A judge is expected to rule on the pending violations charges by the end of August.
Newsline 9 also contacted law enforcement agencies in many of the surrounding counties to see if they've experienced any smoking ban violators. We were told there have not yet been any issues.