Erie County Health Department
No excuses: Owner to pay fines
Sandusky Register Staff
Mar 2, 2014 at 10:14 AM
There are no more excuses for the Excuses Lounge.
The neighborhood tavern at Columbus Avenue and Strub Road, faced with the loss of its liquor license, has agreed to pay about $45,000 in fines and penalties for violations of Ohio’s smoking law that stretch over several years.
Excuses owner Terry L. Smith signed the settlement agreement Dec. 31, admitting the violations and agreeing to pay back fines and obey Ohio’s no-smoking laws. Erie County’s health commissioner, Pete Schade, announced the agreement when he met with the county’s health board on Tuesday.
Under the agreement, Smith agreed to pay $5,000 by Jan. 1.
He is then supposed to pay $1,158.34 on the first of the month, every month, beginning Feb. 1, with all fines due to be paid in full by Jan. 1, 2017. In the meantime, however, the balance due will grow as collection costs and interest continue to pile up.
Erie County’s health department is supposed to get 90 percent of that to help the department pay for its enforcement costs, Schade told the board.
As of Friday, the health department had not received any money, said Joe Palmucci, the health department’s top fiscal officer.
Schade said he believes the settlement is fair, and will make Smith pay for some of the extra profit he gained by allowing smoking.
Schade contends bar owners who looked the other way while patrons lit up gave themselves a competitive advantage over bars that followed the law and did not allow smoking.
Smith did not return a telephone call to Excuses asking for comment.
The settlement reveals Smith apparently settled in order to keep his liquor license.
The attorney general’s office asked the Ohio Division of Liquor Control not to renew Excuses’ liquor license, citing 13 violations from 2007 to 2011, which allegedly showed Smith’s “disregard for the law”
The Ohio Liquor Control Commission voted on Nov. 18, 2013, to yank Excuses’ liquor license. Excuses’ attorney then asked the state health department to settle the matter.
If Smith doesn’t follow the agreement, the attorney general’s office can seek a court order and can again seek to pull the bar’s liquor permit.
Smoking violations and fines at Excuses Lounge
Here are the 13 violations the attorney general’s office listed for violations of the Smoke Free Act at Excuses Lounge:
•Aug. 28, 2007, letter of warning. Ashtray found at the scene.
•Nov. 8, 2007, smoking, $100 fine, paid in full. Ashtray was present.
•June 30, 2009, smoking and inadequate signs, $500 fine.
•Sept. 4, 2009, $1,000 fine, smoking and ashtray present.
•Jan. 5, 2010, smoking, $2,500 fine.
•Feb. 19, 2010, smoking, ashtray present, no signs posted, $2,500 fine.
•April 8, 2010, smoking, ashtray present, inadequate signs, $2,500 fine.
•June 7, 2010, smoking, inadequate signs, $2,500 fine.
•July 15, 2010, smoking, ashtray present, no signs posted, $2,500 fine.
•Sept. 27, 2010, smoking, ashtray present, $2,500 fine.
•Oct. 19, 2010, smoking, ashtray present, $2,500 fine.
•Dec. 28, 2010, smoking, $2,500 fine.
•June 2, 2011, smoking, ashtray present, $2,500 fine.
As of Nov. 7, 2013, Excuses Lounge owed a total of $45,541.84:
Fines, $24,000; attorney general interest, $2,017.04, collection costs, $19,524.10.
The total will grow as collection costs and interest continue to accrue.
Source: Settlement agreement released by Ohio Attorney General’s Office.