Breck bans smoking; Frisco gets strict |

Breck bans smoking; Frisco gets strict

Jane Stebbins and Julie Sutor/Summit County Correspondents

The Breckenridge Town Council has given preliminary approval to a law that would ban smoking in public places.

Breckenridge is one of three towns in Summit County that have crafted smoking bans in the past few months after listening to debate about the effects of secondhand smoke on employees and the degree to which government should be allowed to interfere in private business.

The county’s ban, approved earlier this month, prohibits smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars. That ban, along with proposed bans in Frisco, Breckenridge and Dillon, are set to go into effect June. 1.

The council has struggled with how to address some elements of the ban, including the definition of a private office and whether there should be additional exemptions. Some exemptions now include retail tobacco stores, guest rooms in lodging establishments and private clubs not open to the public.

One of those was requested by Cecelia’s owner, Jeff Cox, whose bar also features a humidor from which he sells cigars. He asked the council if it had considered that when he asks his smoking patrons to go outside, they will likely disturb residents in the neighborhood.

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Restaurateur Tom Bauder said he feels the market has dictated what should happen in town.

“Most of us voluntarily have limited the potential of anyone smoking in our dining rooms,” he said. “Why not let culture take its course?

The council voted 6-1 to approve the ordinance. A second public hearing will be held when the ordinance is considered for the second and final time at the next town council meeting, Feb. 24.

In Frisco on Tuesday night, the Town Council there stymied a major exception to its proposed smoking ban.By a vote of 3-2, council members also gave preliminary approval to a law that would ban smoking in enclosed public places. In its current form, the ban does not allow for separately ventilated smoking rooms.

The ordinance’s first draft contained an exception for smoking rooms, but Councilmembers Bernie Zurbriggen and Gary Runkle led the charge to eliminate it.

“I’m against this ordinance,” Runkle said of the first draft. “The citizens of Frisco voted 62 percent to 38 percent to be smoke free in all public places. I don’t think this ordinance protects the workers.”

Runkle also expressed concern that the smoking room option might hurt the very restaurants and bars it was designed to help. He reasoned that many local establishments wouldn’t have the money to install expensive ventilation equipment or build separate rooms.

“It would put our restaurants at risk of losing customers to a deep-pocketed restaurant or bar that comes into town,” Runkle said. “If we’re only letting the rich put these in, we’re not doing a service to our restaurants, we’re doing them a disservice.”

Jonn Greco, owner of Upstairs at Jonny G’s Sports Bar, estimated a smoking room would run him about $40,000- money he said he just doesn’t have.

Zurbriggen said he felt strongly that a Frisco smoking ban should closely mirror the county’s ban, which does not contain exceptions for smoking rooms.

“(Allowing smoking rooms) is out of step with the rest of the community,” he said. “The county has acted, other towns are looking at us. We ought to provide the leadership to say, “Let’s stand solid with the county on this.’ Then, maybe other communities will do the same, and we will have accomplished what we set out to do, which was to have a smoke free community.”

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