The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that smoking is permitted inside tobacco shops - even if they serve alcohol.
The decision stems from a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Health Services by the owner of Magnum's Cigar, Wine & Liquor Emporium in Phoenix. State regulators had told Amar Patel, the shop's owner, that they considered his store a bar rather than a tobacco shop because he served alcohol.
The Arizona Smoke Free law, passed by voters in 2006, exempts shops that earn half of their revenue from tobacco sales. That included Magnum's, Patel argued.
The three-judge court ruled that tobacco shops selling alcohol fall under the exemption because the law doesn't specifically say that they don't.
Patel said the fight has cost him business and thousands of dollars in legal costs.
"Keep in mind, we are not a corporation," he said. "We have no lawyers on retainer. We don't even know what that means."
Craig Jones, owner of Matchstix Fine Cigars in Chandler, who sold alcohol in his store until January, said he was pleased to hear that the court ruled in Patel's favor.
"I'm thankful he had deeper pockets than I did and he could hold out," he said. "It was worth fighting for."
Jones, who said he was forced to stop serving alcohol due to pressure from DHS officials, said he'll speak to his attorney about resuming alcohol sales.
Don Herrington, bureau chief of epidemiology and disease control at DHS, said officials are examining their options, which include appealing to the Arizona Supreme Court or making Patel prove that more than half of his sales actually come from tobacco purchases.
"From our perspective, this is still an ongoing issue," he said.