60 days to smoke
VAIL- A mid-day crowd hung out at Bobs Place, watching television, chatting, chowing down. In the middle of the room, two men enjoyed a couple beers and a few smokes over a game of pool.
In 60 days, the beer and pool will still be at Bobs Place, but the cigarettes will be banned. The Avon Town Council unanimously passed a smoking ban during a council meeting Tuesday evening, just hours after Eagle County made the same move. After 72 percent of Eagle County electors voted for a smoking ban in November, Avon decided to follow suit.”You are taking an important step to protecting the health and safety of your residents,” said Jennifer Corrigan, the smoke free air policy manager for the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance. While legislators and anti-smoking proponents are cheering the ban, others aren’t so pleased.”I think it (expletive) sucks,” said Dick Smith, pulling out a Marlboro menthol cigarette and lighting it in Bob’s. “It’s going to kill half the establishments around here. Bob’s going to lose me and lots of others. I guaran-frickin’-tee it.”Taking a hefty drag, Smith put down his cigarette, took a swig of beer and picked up his pool cue. Laverne Gomez approached Smith and his pool opponent and asked to play the winner of the game.Although Gomez isn’t a smoker, she said she never minded a smoky atmosphere, and thought private businesses should have had the right to decide for themselves. “It shouldn’t be the voters’ choice,” she said. “The taxpayers aren’t paying Bob’s taxes. If Bob smoked, he should be able to smoke in his own bar, and, of course, if he didn’t, he should have the right to ban it, but it should be his decision.”Ken Dahlber, who has owned the Brass Parrot restaurant for 19 years, said he’s worried about how the ban will effect his bottom line.”I’m a non-smoker, but 90 percent of my customers smoke,” he said. “At what point do (legislators) not let the business run they’re own business?”Dahlber may be right to worry.”I’m just going to stay at home so I can drink and smoke,” said Becky Rioux, lunching at the Brass Parrot. Next to her, Susan Steward said she doesn’t go to non-smoking bars or restaurants. Dahlber’s wife, Kris Miller, said the restaurant is considering converting to a private club to allow smoking to continue and avoid fines, which start at $100 for the first violation and grow to $500 for each violation. While Maggie Parker, owner of Finnegan’s Wake, also mentioned a likely loss of customers, she also brought up the question of enforcement.”I will not send one of my employees out to tell someone to get off my deck,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of burden on the police force here to actually enforce the law.”But despite the predictions of doom, Rebecca Te Whetu, a New Zealand native, said businesses recovered quickly after a smoking ban was passed in New Zealand.Closer to home, Don Parson, who co-chaired SmokeFree Summit and is the president elect of the Colorado Public Health Association, said bar and restaurant owners who strongly opposed a smoking ban are changing their tune.”They’re saying, ‘This is the best thing that ever happened to our business,'” Parsons said. Bar and restaurant owners said they were selling more food, catering to an earlier crowd and booking more entertainers, many of whom disliked the previously smoky atmosphere. Although they sat in the smoking section of Bobs Place, five friends munching on buffalo wings, said they’re thrilled Avon and unincorporated Eagle County will be smoke free. “I think it’s fantastic,” said Jeff Althage, a Vail resident. “I don’t like smelling like smoke. Vail should do the same thing.”Liz Keating said she especially likes the smoking ban in lift lines. Sitting next to her, Rob Foster, who works for Vail Resorts, heartily agreed.”Cleaning up those cigarette butts is a bitch,” he said. But a defiant Smith promised to load each hand with two tobacco cigarettes and a marijuana cigarette the next time he rode up the chairlift. “Nah, I’m just kidding. I’m a respectful smoker,” he said. “Maybe I’ll move to Vegas. They’d never try that (expletive) in Nevada.”Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or email@example.com. Vail, Colorado.