Disgust fills the air in El Jebel | AspenTimes.com

Disgust fills the air in El Jebel

John Colson
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Patrons and employees at the Short Stop bar in El Jebel aren’t shy about their disgust with Eagle County’s new smoking ban.”I think it’s ridiculous,” bartender Paula Romero said Wednesday night. Romero said she is “a smoker and proud of it. These nonsmokers are infringing on my rights. I mean, they’ve taken over every other place.”The Short Stop, like all other public gathering places in Eagle County, will in two months be subject to a ban on smoking, one of the toughest in the United States.The ban covers all indoor and outdoor dining and drinking areas (including any area within 25 feet of an outdoor patio); 90 percent of the hotel rooms in the county (the other 10 percent are exempt, along with private homes); ski lifts and lift lines; skate parks; and fairgrounds grandstands.Eagle County voters approved the ban last year, and county commissioners this week passed an ordinance that stipulates it will take effect in early March. The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for enforcement, although Sheriff Joe Hoy has been quoted as saying “this will be the last thing my deputies do” in the performance of their duties.Amanda Street of Glenwood Springs, who has been traveling to El Jebel for her smoking and social pleasures for several years, was particularly critical of a comment made this week by Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone suggesting smokers are nuisance inside or out.”I like being outside, and that’s where smokers have been pushed.” Stone said. “That forces me inside when I’d rather be outside.”

That, Street said, was “a dumb-assed f—ing statement. I thought this was America. It’s my right to smoke a cigarette if I want to. I understand that nonsmokers have rights, too, [but] there’s got to be something intermediate that can make both sides happy.”Other patrons at the Short Stop were talking about staging a “smoke-in” at the Eagle County Courthouse, and Romero said, “They’re making us smoke more; they’re stressing us out.”Several nonsmokers at the bar Wednesday night indicated they came for the atmosphere and camaraderie.”I’m addicted to secondhand smoke, which is probably why I come in here,” joked Larry Willert of Carbondale. But, he added, “I don’t smoke, so I’m all for [the ban].”Another man, who called himself Roady, worried that the ban would force patrons to go somewhere else where there is no ban, like Basalt, Carbondale or Glenwood Springs. “We have a good little family here, and we don’t want to see it busted up,” he said.”Eagle County let [basketball star] Kobe Bryant walk, and they’re going to make us criminals?” yelled another man, who gave his name as Jeff Smith.Mike Stascavage, owner of the Short Stop and a nonsmoker, is visiting county officials to voice his displeasure. He fears his business will suffer because his customers will go elsewhere for a drink and a smoke.

“The fact that they’re not letting people smoke on patios is absurd,” he said. “I’ve got a big patio that would be a wonderful place for people to step outside and have a cigarette.”Being a smoking bar, he said, is “our niche. It’s always been a great niche. People who don’t smoke don’t come here.”Around the corner at the Blue Creek Grill, assistant manager Rob Pempin said he doesn’t think the ordinance is going to affect the restaurant much because it is already a nonsmoking establishment. But he was concerned about the outdoor ban.”I don’t see any reason for it,” Pempin said. “We don’t have a problem right now. I think it’s selfish of Tom Stone to say what he said.”Over at the El Jebowl bowling alley, where a fog of smoke hangs over the buzz of conversation and the rattle of pins, nonsmoker Joe Brown was working at the Strikes Pizzeria and Grill. He predicted the ban would not hurt business there.”I’m for it either way,” he said, pointing to a “no smoking” table in the center of the dining space as an example of his tolerance of all sides. “I think it’s going to bring in a lot of fresh people, a lot of families and kids” who stay away now because of the smoke.El Jebowl owner Glen Harris, also a nonsmoker, agreed with Brown.

“It’s OK with me. But I think they’ve taken it a little bit too far.” His objection is with the ban on outdoor smoking and the rule making smokers stay 25 feet from outdoor patios, which he called “excessive.”He said he does not believe it will hurt his business, which is the only bowling alley in the valley. He predicts that for all the smoking bowlers who abandon El Jebowl, nonsmoking bowlers will take their place.”Only time will tell whether I’m against it from a business standpoint,” he said.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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