More valley bars banning smoking |

More valley bars banning smoking

Scott N. Miller
Daily file photoAs more county bars prohibit smoking, owners say they don't like government telling them what to do.

EAGLE COUNTY – Kim Hefty wants to give Gypsum what it wants, and it isn’t easy.To keep her old customers happy and draw in new ones, Hefty now owns two restaurants, a bar with food that allows smoking, and a restaurant with a bar where there are no ashtrays.For years, the Pastime Bar and Grill has been known as a place to get a cold beer and a good burger. If someone wants a cigarette while the burger is cooking, that’s fine. But the Pastime’s old-time ambiance wasn’t to everyone’s liking.”I’ve had a lot of friends and people around town tell me they love the Pastime’s food, but they didn’t like the smoking,” Hefty said.So, when another restaurant space in Gypsum came up for rent, Hefty grabbed it. Now, Fandango’s is her family restaurant, a smoke-free place where mom, dad and the kids can go.”It’s working out very well having one of each,” Hefty said. “It’s important for people to decide. Now customers and employees both have a choice.”

That choice is about to disappear in at least part of Eagle County. In a Nov. 1 ballot question, the Eagle County Commissioners asked voters for permission to pass a smoking ban for bars and restaurants. The question passed with about 73 percent of the vote. When the county passes its ban, it will apply to bars, restaurants and work places in Edwards, Eagle-Vail, Beaver Creek, El Jebel and other unincorporated areas. The ban wouldn’t apply to the county’s towns. Flop for football County officials want all local towns to follow suit with smoking bans of their own. At the moment, only Avon is actively pursuing a smoking ban of its own. Ralph Dockery, the owner of Paddy’s Sports Bar and Grill in Eagle-Vail, said he’d like to see more. Dockery made his place no-smoking until 9 p.m. a couple of years ago.”If I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it,” Dockery said. “I get compliments from families, and my employees like it, but I don’t see it on my bottom line. We’ve had a huge drop in business during football games.”

Dockery believes that having smoking in some restaurants and bars and not in others costs him business. That’s why he supports a ban on smoking not just in Eagle County, but across the state.”The Colorado Restaurant Association lobbied for a bill in the legislature last session, but it didn’t pass,” he said. “I hope it gets passed next time.”While Dockery says his bottom line has suffered by cutting smoking, a bar in Beaver Creek has taken its smoking ban one step farther.OK with the bandLike Paddy’s, the Coyote Cafe in Beaver Creek had been smoke-free until later in the evening. Before this ski season began, the bar threw out all its ash trays, banning smoking entirely. The same thing happened at Vendetta’s in Vail before the ski season.”Everybody’s been real understanding, even the people who have to go outside in the snow to smoke,” Vendetta’s owner John Brennen said. “It’s a more healthy environment for employees, too.”

Brennen and Coyote manager Buzz Busby both said going non-smoking has been an unqualified success for them so far.”I think people are making it a bigger deal than it is,” Busby said. “It’s been a non-issue for us.”And, Busby said, at least some visitors from Europe – where smoking is more common than in the United States – don’t see smoke-free bars and restaurants as a big deal either.Members of a band from Austria that plays Beaver Creek nearly every year came into the Coyote one evening. When Busby told band members they couldn’t smoke in the bar any more, he said they basically shrugged.”They said, ‘No problem, we’re used to it,'” Busby said. While Dockery said he’d like to see a law dictating smoke-free restaurants and bars, others said it should be up to businesses to make that decision.”I’m neutral either way,” Hefty said. “But I think it would cut business at the Pastime. I would rather have the choice.”

Brennen has the same idea.”Personally I hate government intervention,” he said. “It should be up to the individual bar owners.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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