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Breck forges ahead with smoking ban

Jane Stebbins, Summit County Correspondent

Breckenridge Town Council members this week agreed to draft legislation that would ban smoking in public places.

Breckenridge becomes the first town in Summit County to follow the lead of the Board of County Commissioners which is set to vote Jan. 26 on a smoking ban in unincorporated parts of the county. Summit County voters approved a ballot question last November directing county commissioners to enact such a ban.

Since then, towns have been taking public comment and drafting ordinances of their own.

Six of Breckenridge’s seven town councilmembers said during a worksession Tuesday they support a smoking ban.

The sole voice against a ban was J.B. Katz, who cited the large number of nonsmoking establishments from which diners already have to choose. According to the Breckenridge Restaurant Association, there are 68 dining establishments in town with liquor licenses, and all but 15 of them are nonsmoking.

The council spent two hours listening to proponents and opponents of a ban, finally opting to draft an ordinance rather than put the issue to a vote in April. That way, they will have control over what goes in the legislation.

SmokeFree Summit members Don Parsons and Denham Ward cited the results of recent surveys that indicated most Breckenridge residents agree that secondhand smoke is harmful to restaurant and bar employees and that it is the responsibility of the Town Council to protect the public’s health.

Others, including John Daisy, who owns Fatty’s Pizzeria, say smoking isn’t the issue.

“Does anyone here think smoking is healthy? No,” he said. “But it’s a matter of choice. This is a slap in the face to my loyal customers. I don’t know who you people are that you think you can stick your nose in my business. I don’t want to treat some of my best customers as second-class citizens.”

Town councilmembers have been wavering on the issue but finally came to a conclusion.

“I cannot go against the wishes of the people,” said Councilmember Greg Abernathy. “Let the people decide.”

Councilmember Jim Lamb said the people already decided in the November election.

“If it had been close, sure,” he said. “But it was 2-1. The people have spoken.”

Katz, who is as vehemently opposed to the ban as Lamb supports it, said SmokeFree Summit members should have noted the number of smoke-free establishments already out there.

“That speaks volumes about what Breckenridge stands for,” she said. “There’s great volunteer participation. I don’t think Breckenridge (council) needs to tell the last restaurants and bars they have to do it, too. The community takes care of its own.”

In Frisco, meanwhile, there may be a glimmer of hope among town bar owners hoping for an exception to the imminent smoking ban there.

In a council worksession Tuesday afternoon, councilmembers decided to hold off on nailing down any specific exceptions to a ban until they see the final version of a county smoking ban ordinance, scheduled for a vote in late January.

However, some council members expressed sympathy and concern for a handful of businesses they thought may deserve an exemption from a ban.

“At some point, we might have a high-end steakhouse that wants to put in a cigar room,” said Councilmember Rick Amico. “If they want to spend the extra $50,000 to put in a separate room with a ventilation system, I think that’s their right.

“I think we also have to look at the tavern exception. I could envision, in the future, Barkley’s restaurant being nonsmoking, but the nightclub allowing smoking,” Amico added.

In addition to Barkley’s West, councilmembers mentioned the Moose Jaw and Upstairs at Jonny G’s as potential exceptions to a smoking ban.

“We don’t have apprehension from anyone at this table (about implementing a smoking ban),” Mayor Dede Dighero-Tuso said. “We’re just trying to protect our businesses, and we may be cutting three of their throats.”

Barb Cole, a SmokeFree Summit representative, countered that exceptions would leave employees of such establishments open to serious health risks posed by secondhand smoke exposure.


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