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Summit towns prepare smoking bans

Julie Sutor and Jane Stebbins Summit County Correspondents

On Tuesday, the Frisco Town Council directed town attorney Thad Renaud to draft an ordinance that would ban smoking in enclosed public places, except in separate smoking rooms with separate ventilation systems.

“I think that’s great news,” said Jonn Greco, owner of Upstairs at Jonny G’s Sports Bar. “Personally, I think the Frisco Town Council has been a lot more open to allowing some sort of exception. When we presented the idea of exceptions to the Board of County Commissioners, Gary Lindstrom told us not to bring it up again.

“If this passes,” Greco continued, “I know that I will provide accommodations for my smoking patrons. Fortunately, I have some extra space in my unit. Once the ordinance is passed, I’ll start to make a move on that.”

One of Greco’s bartenders was more excited about the ban than the exception.

“I know people who will come out more when it goes into effect,” said bartender Marc Davis. “Sometimes I can’t even get my friends to come out to the bar I work in because of the smoke. I’m for the ban, and I think it would improve business, but time will tell.”

Greco applauded the council for considering the smoking-room exception but said he will lobby for further exceptions, including local taverns’ total exemption from a ban. In the context of smoking bans, taverns are establishments whose food sales are a certain set percentage lower than liquor sales.

During the council’s Tuesday work session, several council members opposed the idea of exempting entire establishments.

“I don’t have a problem with just going along with the county,” said Councilmember Jon Zdechlik. “Just being over in Europe, it was nice to come back to a place that’s relatively smoke-free. I say, go for it.”

On Monday, the county commissioners passed a smoking ban for unincorporated areas of Summit County. That ordinance, which goes into effect June 1, does not allow for separate smoking rooms.

Frisco Councilmember Rick Amico advocated strongly for exceptions in a Frisco smoking ban.

“It’s an obligation to our business community,” Amico said. “Separate rooms with separate ventilation are an enormous expense. I don’t think anybody would do it, but I think we owe them that right and that option. I think that has to be in there, no matter what.

“I also think we need to make allowances for taverns like the Moose Jaw, Jonny G’s and Barkley’s West,” Amico added. “I have talked to a number of developers who are very encouraged that we are at least considering exceptions.”

Breck views first draft of ban

The Breckenridge Town Council got its first glimpse Tuesday at a draft ordinance that would ban smoking in public places, and elected officials said they hope to be the first town in the county to approve the ban.

The “real rough draft,” as town attorney Tim Berry called it, is crafted after the county’s new ordinance. The three-page document would ban smoking in town buildings and vehicles – already a town policy – and in public places, including retail stores, bars, restaurants and common areas in places open to the public.

Although the council voted 6-1 earlier this month to draft such an ordinance, the issue still is proving to be contentious.

Councilmember J.B. Katz, who adamantly opposes a ban, asked the council if it would consider compromises, perhaps by having smokers’ hours in bars or offering exceptions to the ban.

“I’ve got an issue as it relates to employee health,” said Mayor Sam Mamula. “To let these people be in the same jeopardy from 10 to 12, or 12 to 2 … it’s all or nothing. The minute we start applying exceptions in town, we’re unleveling the playing field.”

Don Parsons, a member of SmokeFree Summit that has championed the ban, said “smokers hours” would defeat the purpose of the ordinance, especially if the reason for enacting it is to protect employees’ health.

“We talked about flexibility and latitude,” he said of a discussion he had with Katz. “I’d prefer to stick to the straight and narrow on this one.”

Another sticking point was whether smoking would be allowed in private offices to which the public has access. The council decided that, for now, it would include such offices in the ban.

And it will leave it to public hearings before deciding whether to allow smoking outside on decks where food is being served.

According to Parsons, there is no scientific data showing a link between an employee’s health and secondhand smoke outside.

The council also debated if they could ban smoking in ski lift lines.

“Those lines can be full of guests, of visitors, employees, children and it’s full of smokers,” said Councilmember Michael Bertaux, a lift operator at the Breckenridge Ski Resort. “It’s awful. I think we’re missing the boat. If we really want to be leaders, we’ll outlaw smoking in lift lines.”

Only the lift lines at the bases of the resort fall within the town’s jurisdiction, but, it was noted, chief operations officer Roger McCarthy has expressed an interest in banning smoking in lines and on lifts.

Another issue in the smoking debate has been the economic effect of a ban on restaurants and bars that go smoke free. Numerous studies show it doesn’t affect the bottom line, but anecdotal stories to the contrary are everywhere.

Councilmember Greg Abernathy cited a statement a bar employee made when the band in the bar asked the patrons not to smoke. According to Abernathy, she said even the smokers commented on the clear atmosphere.

Katz, however, said others have told her that they appreciate her standing up for the opposing view. The Town Council hopes to hold a public hearing on the ordinance in February and enact a ban June 1.

“We could lead the way for towns such as Dillon and Frisco,” said Councilmember Jim Lamb. “We should show them we can do this and people will come here; they won’t go away.”


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