On a recent Tuesday night at the American Legion Goff-Moll Post 101, nine members sat at the bar downstairs, shared a drink and had a smoke.
Martha Farris arrived to the bar about 30 minutes later than usual. The other members offered a ballpark guess on when she'd arrive because they've been coming to the post together for several years.
"We're a close family up here," said Farris, who owns property in Brentwood, but lives in Webster Groves. "A lot of good things were done for veterans here."
The veterans at the bar represented the different military branches and took different tours across the globe.
"They paid their dues," Farris said. "This is a place where the veterans can enjoy camaraderie."
But Ed Hofherr, the commander of the post, is afraid he might have to close the legion's doors. The smoking ban passed by Brentwood in August doesn't allow organizations like the American Legion to have smoking sections in their buildings. The ban starts on Jan. 1.
Hofherr asked the Brentwood Board of Aldermen to consider an exemption for the post during the public hearing period at the board's meeting on Monday night.
"We would lose members," he said. "Members would join the VFW in Richmond Heights or American Legion in Maplewood."
People are allowed to smoke in those buildings because Richmond Heights and Maplewood follow the county's smoking ban, which is less restrictive than the one passed by Brentwood.
Brentwood passed a stricter smoking ban because the board felt the county's ban was unfair to certain businesses. Under the county ban, a business can allow smoking if alcohol amounts to 75 percent of its sales. Some businesses that sell alcohol and food are required to outlaw smoking, while businesses that primarily rely on alcohol sales—but still sell food—are exempt.
Brentwood's ban added a blanket restriction to all buildings open to the public—even some, like the American Legion, that would be exempt under the county's ban.
"We are a not-for-profit organization, and it's a private club," Hofherr said to the board. "It's not like the commercial organizations."
The rest of the discussion centered on a question raised by First Ward Alderwoman Barbara Clements.
"I can have a beer at the bar, can I not?" she asked.
Because the building is open to the public, some aldermen said the organization should follow the same smoking ban rules.
The board eventually debated a bill that would potentially allow an exemption. In the bill, an exemption would be extended to private clubs that meet a few criteria, such as maintaining a building that isn't "generally open to members of the general public," according to the bill's language.
The legion said it would change its bylaws to meet the new criteria, Hofherr said. The new bylaws would only allow members and their guests into the building, he said.
Third Ward Alderman Andrew Leahy pushed for the board to accept the bill.
"I would really appreciate the board extending a courtesy to this organization," he said. He said he reviewed the bylaws to make sure they comply with the bill.
Second Ward Alderman Lee Wynn, who doesn't smoke or drink, said he supported the bill.
"They're not asking for any money, they're not asking for us to build anything," he said. "All they want to do is have a place where these veterans can go and have a smoke."
First Ward Alderman Anthony Harper, who's a veteran himself, voiced his concern.
"I don't know that [an exemption] would be fair to the other businesses in Brentwood," he said.
After a lengthy discussion, Fourth Ward Alderwoman Lorraine Krewson suggested the board hold the bill until its Jan. 3 meeting so the aldermen could consider the legion's new bylaws.
With the bill on hold, legion members can't smoke at the post starting Jan. 1. If the board approves the exemption, members will be allowed to smoke again starting Jan. 4.
"In my mind, Brentwood's got its mind made up and they won't change," said Peggy Craken, a legion member and Brentwood resident. "But we hope they do."