New Breckenridge smoking ordinance won’t ban patios |

New Breckenridge smoking ordinance won’t ban patios

The cigar patio outside of Cecelia's in Breckenridge. After a month of considering a complete patio ban, the town council recently passed a revised clean-air ordinance that still allows for smoking on restaurant and bar patios.
By Phil Lindeman / |

After nearly a month of revisions, discussions and a few unexpected roadblocks, the Breckenridge Town Council on Tuesday approved a new smoking ordinance one councilmember said is “going back to step one.”

The council approved the ordinance by a vote of 5-2, with Mayor John Warner and Councilman Gary Gallagher voting against it. In its approved form, smokers will be able to light up on and near restaurant patios.

“We’re going backwards,” Gallagher said before the vote. “Now diners in an outdoor area can’t get away from smoke, even when they’re eating. So much for clean air, so much for our employees, so much for our diners — I’m not voting for it.”

On Jan. 13, the council heard the first reading of a revised ordinance meant to regulate public smoking across town. The revisions were relatively straightforward: no smoking in front of entryways, no smoking at public transit centers, no electronic smoking devices at indoor establishments, and no smoking on or near patios at restaurants and bars.

The ordinance hardly drew attention on its first reading. The relative silence prompted Warner to wonder if enough business owners and residents were aware of the changes.

By the second reading on Jan. 27, Jeff Cox, owner of Cecelia’s cigar and martini bar in the La Cima Mall, became the most vocal opponent of the patio restriction.

Cecelia’s doesn’t qualify as an indoor cigar-tobacco bar under state law — only bars that generated at least $50,000 in annual cigar sales as of 2006 were grandfathered in — so cigar smokers must take their stogies to the heated outdoor patio near the main entrance.

The patio is less than 10 feet from the bar’s main entrance. That’s close enough to the door and neighboring establishments to violate the proposed patio and entryway restrictions.

Cox argued the ordinance might cost Cecelia’s roughly $35,000 in yearly cigar sales. He also suggested those lost sales could impact just about everything at the bar, from drink orders to guest traffic between 2 and 10 p.m., when he says the majority of guests come for cigars and martinis.

“I’m personally grateful that the council voted for an ordinance that is mindful of the burden a patio ban would place on businesses,” Cox said after the Tuesday meeting adjourned. “I also think it was respectful of the rights of the population that uses tobacco.”

Cox’s thoughts on his bar and the overall smoker population convinced the council to hold off on a vote until Tuesday, yet councilmembers weren’t willing to draft an exemption for a single business.

Another touchy issue was enforcement, particularly in the post-dinner hours when a healthy majority of restaurants at La Cima and across town embrace the bar crowd — and smoking.

“I was one of the ones who thought we should walk on this,” said Councilman Mark Burke, who voted for the ordinance and often referred to his experience as owner of Burke and Riley’s, the pub directly above Cecelia’s. “I’m worried about the enforcement and the effect it might have on business, but the council decided now was time to tackle this. I personally don’t think this is beneficial to the vast majority of bars. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but the alternative was a complete ban.”

At the pre-meeting work session on Tuesday, councilmembers tried to find a happy middle ground on the patio provision. They agreed on a time frame: From 10 p.m. to closing time, usually 2 a.m., there would be no patio ban — a sort of smoking curfew, as the council explained it.

But the curfew struck Councilmembers Burke, Wendy Wolfe and Erin Gigliello as too arbitrary and, again, difficult to enforce.

When the vote was cast, several councilmembers suggested revisiting the patio provision in the future, although they did not set a specific date.

Cox was pleased with the decision, but he’s wary for the future.

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