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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A state court of appeals judge denied an appeal from local businesses to place an injunction on the city's recently expanded smoking ban.
Judge Thomas Wine refused to overturn a previous ruling by a county circuit judge that allowed the ban to go into effect on July 1. Instead, a three-judge panel will meet with attorneys on July 24.
The ban prohibits smoking in all public places except for Churchill Downs and any tobacco manufacturer that conducts research and development for tobacco products on site. The business owners say the law is arbitrary and too vague.
"We're pleased with the decision, and we're glad it does not affect the smoking ban," said Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson.
In Wine's 12-page decision he said the plaintiffs "may ultimately prevail on the merits." Wine added the city's reasoning for exempting Churchill Downs may be problematic.
The city contends that the track is a unique business to the city, doesn't compete with local restaurants and is governed by the state through the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority. But Wine wrote second hand smoke at the track is just as harmful as it is at any bar or bingo hall.
"In sum, Churchill Downs is not so different from any other business," he wrote.
Wine later added "there appear to be no valid reasons to exempt (Churchill Downs) from a law which is designed to protect the health of the public employees."
Mike Hatzell, an attorney representing bar and restaurant owners, said Wine's ruling could eventually prove beneficial.
"It's a harbinger," he said. "We didn't get the emergency injunction, but this is the next best thing."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)