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Broken Bow smoking-ban violator keeps liquor license
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Broken Bow smoking-ban violator keeps liquor license

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A Broken Bow bar owner who thumbed his nose at the state's smoking ban last year has been given a reprieve.

Rather than close Sylvester's Bar & Lounge, the three-member Liquor Control Commission gave owner Henry Schumacher one year of probation.

If Schumacher is found guilty of any Clean Indoor Air Act violation during that year, the commission will cancel his license immediately, according to a commission order passed unanimously Wednesday.

Last month, commissioners threatened to close the bar because of Schumacher's flagrant disregard of the no-smoking ban that took effect June 1, 2009.

An obviously relieved Schumacher said he has learned his lesson. He's going to work to change state law rather than defy it.

"There will be no problems," Schumacher told reporters after the commission decision.

"If I fight the law, it will be another way," he said.

Schumacher also is going to open an outdoor area for customers who want to smoke, as soon as he can clear bureaucratic hurdles.

Schumacher paid $500 in fines for three no-smoking violations last year before the Custer County Court issued an injunction requiring him to follow the law and the commission threatened to pull his liquor license.

Employees told customers Schumacher would pay the fines if they were caught smoking in the bar.

Ashtrays were on the table and people were still smoking in the bar seven months after the ban began, according to complaints from customers.

After the injunction, Schumacher began enforcing a no-smoking rule.

"I'm sure this man has cleaned up his act as far as the Clean Indoor Air Act is concerned," said commission chairman Bob Logsdon of Lincoln.

Commissioners said they considered Schumacher's record as a bar owner in deciding not to immediately cancel the license.

"Your past history weighed in your favor," Hobert Rupe, executive director of the commission, told Schumacher.

The decision should not be seen as a sign other violators would also get probation, commissioners said.

"In no way are we sanctioning this behavior," said Commissioner Bob Batt of Omaha.

Schumacher needs to be "more proactive in keeping people from smoking in his bar than anyone in the state," Rupe said.

"Because if this happens again, your license is going away."

Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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