An El Jebel without a smoky bar?
Eagle County wants an advisory vote on the ballot in November to see if residents want to go smoke free.County Commissioner Arn Menconi proposed popping the question. The commissioners want to gauge if there is support for a smoking ban in public places in unincorporated Eagle County. But Menconi hopes that towns from Vail to Basalt will use the results from their voting precincts to decide if smoking should be banned in their public spaces.A ban would affect bars and restaurants. It would only work if it applied to businesses in the towns as well as in the county, Menconi said.Is the world ready for a smoke-free Shortstop in El Jebel or Two Rivers Bar in Basalt? Both establishments are popular with working-class locals who like to light up after a hard day on the job.Rick Kane, who has owned Two Rivers in Basalt with Pat Breed for 26 years, estimated 80 percent of his bar customers smoke. Smoking was prohibited in the restaurant at least a dozen years ago, he said. The bar and restaurant are attached via a narrow passageway and a fan in the bar effectively sucks smoke away.Kane said the free market seems to work well to dictate whether Two Rivers allows smoking or not. He said he knows he loses some business by allowing smoking in the bar, but the loss would be greater if smoking was banned.”That would hurt us as far as the bar business goes,” he said.At the Shortstop in El Jebel, Manager Mike Stascavage said he would lose thousands of dollars monthly if smoking was banned, especially if it affected only unincorporated Eagle County. “People could just drive a couple of miles down the road to Basalt,” he said.He estimated 75 percent of his customers smoke. “I would be against [a ban] if it wasn’t statewide,” he said.Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone said he supports letting businesses determine on their own whether to ban smoking. He noted that he seeks out smoke-free restaurants as a consumer.Nevertheless, he voted to place the advisory question on the ballot to gauge Eagle County residents’ opinions. Like Menconi, he said a smoking ban wouldn’t be effective unless it was approved by all the towns within Eagle County as well as by the county.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Max Weintraub has been senior curator at the Aspen Art Museum since January 2019.