Monday marked the beginning of the Palatine Police Department’s crackdown on smokers who don’t play by the rules.
Two months after officials attempted to address numerous complaints by creating a designated smoking area in the village’s downtown, police officers are now issuing tickets to smokers who light up too close to the entrances of public buildings.
Fines for smokers range from $100 to $250, under the state’s Smoke-Free Illinois Act. An owner of a public place who violates the act can face fines from $250 to $2,500.
“It’s sad it’s come to this,” Councilman Aaron Del Mar said.
It is illegal to smoke within 15 feet of any door of a public place, such as a restaurant or bar. That presents a unique challenge for the village’s downtown, where there aren’t many places to smoke that aren’t within 15 feet of a door.
The village council hoped to solve the problem April 11 when it established a smoking area in a parking lot at the corner of Brockway and Slade streets. But 90 days later, smokers are still loitering next to doors, officials say.
Village Manager Reid Ottesen said the smoking area is getting “minimal use” and that citizens are still complaining.
According to Ottesen, 90 percent of the complaints are about one location: T.J. O’Brien’s Bar and Grill, formerly known as Hotshots Saloon.
“We’re going to enforce the regulation if establishments don’t inform customers of the regulation,” said Councilman Brad Helms, whose ward includes T. J. O’Brien’s.
T.J. O’Brien’s owner, Tim O’Brien, declined to comment. The bar, at 53 W. Slade St., opened last August.
The area of the parking lot designated for smokers is uncovered and completely open to the elements. Ottesen said the village might construct a shelter if smokers actually used the space.
“What we’re trying to do is create an area where smokers aren’t going to be bothered and they aren’t going to bother other people,” Ottesen said.
Council members said O’Brien should not feel targeted and that the law is being equally enforced throughout the village. But both Helms and Del Mar believe the business has strayed from the family-friendly restaurant O’Brien originally proposed.
“If his establishment is the root of the cause, then the village government will take action,” Del Mar said.