Leaders mull over smoking ban options | SummitDaily.com

Leaders mull over smoking ban options

Christine McManus

BRECKENRIDGE – Beginning sometime next year smokers will no longer be able to light up freely inside bars and restaurants in Summit County, but the picture of what a smoking ban will look like is hazy.

Will smokers have to leave the dining table and step 50 feet outside a restaurant? Or will smokers’ patios and closed-off smokers’ rooms be OK? How will the smoking ban be enforced? Will the towns also have smoking bans?

The devil is in the details.

The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) wrestled the controversial issue Monday at the first of six public meetings. Attendees included leaders of the Summit County Restaurant Association, SmokeFree Summit, the Breckenridge Restaurant Association, Keystone and Breckenridge ski resorts, the Summit Prevention Alliance and the town of Dillon.

Nov. 4, Summit County voters approved by a 2-to-1 margin a measure that asked the BOCC to pass a law prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants. Now it’s up to Commissioners Gary Lindstrom, Tom Long and Bill Wallace to craft and vote on a final smoking ban proposal for unincorporated areas.

While the four towns would have to create their own smoking ordinances, the county’s ban would cover the resorts of Copper and Keystone.

The ban would probably start several months after the BOCC vote, to give businesses and the public in unincorporated areas time to adapt. Commissioners said they want to work with the Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon town councils to get similar laws in place on the same effective date.

Representatives at the meeting agreed smoking bans should be very similar, if not the same, from town to town and in unincorporated areas. However, town officials from Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthorne were not at the meeting.

The people present also agreed the upcoming ban should start on the same date in towns and the county.

That’s where consensus ended.

“We don’t want to have to police people outside our doors,” said Bob Starekow of Silverheels at the Ore House in Frisco, who is also the president of the Summit County Restaurant Association.

“We’re concerned people will have to go outside, or sit in their cars with a six pack of beer. Then we run into potential overservice issues (and other bouncer issues.)”

Dillon town manager Jack Benson said his town council discussed the issue twice, but did not come to any conclusions.

“If you get 10 people in a room and ask them what the definition of a public place is, you’ll get 10 different answers,” Benson said.

Many of the businesses in Keystone are smoke-free by choice, but not all prohibit smoking.

Keystone Resort representative Thomas Davidson told commissioners that any proposal should give smokers some options in the tourism-reliant county.

“It’s important to provide a comfortable place for smokers so they don’t feel like second-class citizens,” Davidson said.

“We don’t want them to feel like we’re judging them. That way the bar and restaurant employees have an easy way to say, “Here’s where you can go,’ not, “Don’t do this.'”

Restaurants must prohibit underage drinking and must follow health codes, so adding smoking regulations to the list should be easy, said Doug Malkan of SmokeFree Summit.

“The restaurants and bars need to help enforce this with bouncers who will throw people out, just as they would for underage drinkers,” Malkan said.

“You’re not a restaurant owner, are you?” said John Daisy, owner of Fatty’s Pizzeria in Breckenridge, who also is the president of the Breckenridge Restaurant Association.

“We are in the hospitality business. We are not about throwing people out, we’re about welcoming them in,” Starekow said. “We do not need any more pressures on doing business in this economy.

“There’s all kinds of things you have to gently remind people of, such as using loud language or using cell phones in the dining room, but throwing people out is not an option.”

The question of who would get a citation – the smoker or the business – also arose.

Several smoking-ban advocates said commissioners should remember to consider the health risk to employees who work in smoky atmospheres.

Bars and restaurants that already choose to be smoke-free do not have too many hassles, Lindstrom said. But the occasional inebriated, argumentative patron who really wants to smoke at the bar will be a challenge for employees, he predicted.

“Unruly patrons are another category all together. We call that the belligerent, in-your-face ordinance,” said Commissioner Bill Wallace.

Meanwhile, the Breckenridge Town Council will host a workshop next month before it chooses one of three options. The Breckenridge council might not issue a ban at all. It might put a vote to town residents in April. Or, the council might vote on a smoking ban in town, like the county.

“The message from the restaurants and bars is clear. We will consider exemptions from the pending ban,” Lindstrom said.

Christine McManus can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or cmcmanus@summitdaily.com.

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