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Licensing likely for vapor bars in Stevens Point


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- Electronic cigarettes and vaping devices are legal, but should government regulate or license vaping bars? That conversation is underway in Stevens Point.

The Public Protection Committee scheduled discussion but no action on that topic Monday night. The committee members are considering drafting an ordinance to make vaping bars a conditional use for certain business zoning districts, but not allow them in residential districts.

Alderman Mike Wiza says like tobacco or alcohol, the products are legal even if there are questions about their safety.  “You can’t sell nicotine products to people under certain ages. If there are drugs that they’re mixing, and if it’s an illegal or controlled substance, you still can’t turn it into a liquid and give it to a kid, so that’s not under our purview. If it’s illegal now, it’s illegal and we don’t need to worry about that.”

Like most committee members, Wiza believes there needs to be an establishment license for vaping bars, which gives the council the ability to make sure there’s ample seating, parking, and health inspections since there are consumable products involved.

Alderman Michael O’Meara would like to see any city ordinance keep vaping bars away from schools.  “When we’re drafting legislation, I would like us to have the same proximities from any schools and playgrounds in any regulation we have (like) we have for taverns.”

There was also discussion about defining just what a vaping bar is, for the purposes of licensing. Resident and bar owner Barb Jacobs disagrees with the proposed 25% of business space for consumption standard.  “If you burn vapor, it’s a vapor bar. If I sell liquor, and you can drink it there, it’s a tavern. I have to be licensed. If I sell beer in a store, now I only have to have a retail license, so if they’re only selling the vapor stuff, then it’s retail.”

Mayor Andrew Halverson believes when it’s all over, Stevens Point will be licensing vapor bars.  “My perspective, and I also feel the general consensus is that we do want to define them. We do want to allow them, conditionally, meaning they would have to go through the conditional use process in the B-1 (zoning) district or above. They would be prohibited in any residential zoning district.”

City Attorney Andrew Logan Beveridge will research some possible ordinance language and provide it to the full city council, before they discuss it Monday.