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Patrons of a handful of bars and private clubs will once again light up cigarettes inside the establishments today, celebrating the loosening of the Casper smoking ban. Meanwhile, smoke-free advocates will start collecting signatures for a referendum to reverse the changes and re-strengthen the ban.

Bars that will allow smoking include Moonlight Liquors & Lounge, Frosty’s Bar & Grill, the Sandbar Lounge, the Alibi Bar and TJ’s Bar and Grill.

Private clubs that will allow smoking include the Powder River Veterans Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars post on First Street and the Fraternal Order of the Eagles.

Both Frosty’s and the Sandbar will host “smoking parties” this evening, and Moonlight Liquors & Lounge will hold a rally from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in support of the Casper City Council’s most recent decision, according to staff and Facebook announcements.

Patrons of adult establishments regained the ability to smoke indoors when the City Council on June 18 approved a partial smoking ban repeal.

Some establishments are attempting to appease smokers and nonsmokers after more than a year of contentious debate that divided community groups and members.

At TJ’s Bar and Grill, Manager Kristi Rainbolt said the place will have a non-smoking section. She said the majority of customers are smokers, and like other businesses, TJ’s revenue decreased after the ban took effect, although she did not have any exact estimates. Whether smoking continues to be allowed at TJ’s will depend on how customers react.

“We’re just going to see how it goes,” Rainbolt said.

The Powder River Veterans Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars post is also attempting to straddle the smoking issue. Bartender Alicen Gunter said smoking will be allowed in a designated room until 7 p.m. From 7 p.m. until close, the entire facility will allow smoking.

Gunter said the club is trying to accommodate customers who smoke as well as those who don’t.

“Some of them are for it; some of them are totally against it,” she said. “So that’s why we’re trying to please everybody.”

A couple businesses have not yet decided whether they will return to smoking. The Backdoor Lounge, attached to CY Discount Liquors, may allow smoking eventually, but bartender Joe Eason said staff had not come to a decision.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Elk Street has not made a definite decision either. Staff said the referendum effort and the work put into transforming the building to a non-smoking club has deterred them from immediately permitting the habit.

The Elks Lodge secretary said the decision about whether to allow smoking again will be up to members, but the process for changing the club rules takes time.

Repealing a rarity

While there have been other attempts to repeal smoking bans, Casper is one of the few where attempts were successful.

Recent efforts in North Carolina and Springfield, Mo., were not.

A North Carolina Senate committee in May passed a ban to prevent municipalities and community colleges from enforcing smoking bans that are stricter than state law, according to the Star-News of Wilmington, N.C. The bill later failed to meet a legislative approval deadline and never advanced.

In 2012, voters in Springfield, Mo., chose not to overturn a city smoking ban. Votes split with 64 percent against the repeal and 36 percent in favor. Opponents argued that the ban hurt business and restricted rights, according to Springfield’s KOLR-10 TV.

There was a successful repeal in Indiana’s Johnson County in 2012. County commissioners voted to repeal a ban before it took effect in response to business owner complaints, according to Indiana Public Media. The ban would have been more restrictive than a statewide law that took effect later that year.

Referendum efforts

The smoking ban amendments passed last week permit smoking in establishments that primarily sell alcohol and are off-limits to people under the age of 21. Private areas of businesses and health care facilities such as senior living homes can also allow smoking.

Smoking in private clubs would still be prohibited during public events, and signs must be posted at the entrance of smoking establishments. Restaurants will remain nonsmoking.

These changes are also subject to a referendum. SmokeFree Natrona County and the Wyoming Medical Center have already scheduled a referendum rally in Conwell Park today at noon. If they collect about 2,500 signatures within 20 days, the amendments must be suspended under law.

The city would then hold a special election within 60 days, allowing voters to approve or deny the changes.

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Reach city reporter Kelly Byer at 307-266-0639 or kelly.byer@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyByer.

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