News Story

Senate bill would allow cigar bar with bad paperwork history to skirt Michigan’s smoking law

Senate regulatory committee will consider bill at Thursday morning hearing

Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet, D-Bay City, has introduced a bill that grants a special favor to a Bay City cigar bar that lost its exemption to Michigan’s smoking law due to failing to file paperwork. Senate Bill 466 will be heard Thursday morning by the Senate Committee on Regulatory Affairs.

Senate Bill 466 contains obscure wording. It’s written for the benefit of a sole establishment.

It states: “The cigar bar is located in a city with a population of more than 32,000 and less than 34,000 that is located in a county with a population of more than 100,000 and less than 105,000.”

The only city that meets those parameters is Bay City. There is currently only one cigar bar in operation there. There was another one, but it was shut down and subsequently sold. Tim Socier, of Timothy’s Fine Cigars, says he believes the bill was written for Stables Martini Bar.

Socier says the bar failed to file annual paperwork that is required to maintain an exemption included in the smoking prohibition law passed in 2009. He notes cigar bars were grandfathered in and no new exemptions are provided for establishments created after the law was enacted.

The bill describes the paperwork problem the bar faced:

Not earlier than 2023, the cigar bar failed to file an affidavit under subsection (1) for not less than 1 calendar year and not more than 3 calendar years. The cigar bar has not previously filed an affidavit under this subsection. If a cigar bar has qualified for the exemption under this section pursuant to subsection, the cigar bar's affidavit filing requirement under subsection does not include the range of calendar years described in subsection, as applicable to the cigar bar.

Socier opposes the bill. He says that since the state will not create new exemptions, existing ones are like gold. The state, he said, would be rewarding a business that did things the wrong way. Socier said he has been offered $60,000 for his exemption.

“Someone was able to get the senator to file this bill so they can get the exemption back after not following the rules,” Socier told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “What does it say about those of us that follow the rules? If they are willing to do that for this one, it will water down the law and everyone will expect the same treatment if they fail to do the same.”

Lumber Barons and Stables, the restaurant that housed the cigar bar, has since closed. It was recently purchased by the owners of Golden Glow Ballroom, according to an Aug. 2 report by MLive. The owners of the Golden Glow did not respond to a request for comment.

CapCon sent an email to Rivet, asking why she is providing the exemption and who requested it. She has not responded.

The Tobacco Control Network assists the state of Michigan with enforcing the smoking ban. CapCon asked the network if it supports or opposes the bill. The network referred CapCon to Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The department “is reviewing the proposed legislation that was recently introduced and has not taken a position on the bill at this time,” Sutfin said.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.