S’mass grounds out butts | AspenTimes.com

S’mass grounds out butts

Brent Gardner-Smith

It’s official. Smoking in all enclosed public spaces in Snowmass Village, including bars, will be against the law starting May 1.

By a unanimous vote Monday night, with one council member absent and the other recused from voting due to a conflict of interest, the Snowmass Village Town Council passed an ordinance that bans smoking in all enclosed public spaces, including restaurants and bars.

A law banning smoking in enclosed public spaces, except for bars, was already on the books in Snowmass Village, but the law was tightened at the request of hundreds of Snowmass Village residents, many of whom work in restaurants and bars.

The ban is as restrictive as Pitkin County’s but goes beyond Aspen’s smoking law, which allows smoking in bars even if they are not separately ventilated from restaurant dining rooms.

“This is a public health issue,” said Councilman Arnold Mordkin, who strongly supported the ban.

Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester agreed. “It’s our job to preserve the health of our citizens.”

But a former Snowmass Village mayor urged the council to back away from the ban. Dick Wall, who served two terms as mayor and is a committed smoker, said the ban would be bad for business in the ski resort.

“Ask someone who is spending $5,000 a week to ski here to go outside and have a smoke instead of sitting and enjoying his martini – I don’t think so,” said Wall.

Wall, fresh off the slopes in a ski instructor’s uniform, cited a list of things he said have been bad for business in Aspen and Snowmass Village, including: focusing on the “fancy folks,” proposing a fur ban, taking the public lockers away from the base of Aspen Mountain, promoting Gay Ski Week, charging seniors to ski and banning smoking in restaurants.

With a ban on smoking in bars, Wall said, “I think we’re going to lose more business than anything else I’ve mentioned. You are about to tell 25 percent of your guests that they are not welcome here.”

Ann Wilkinson, the director of international sales and marketing for the Aspen Skiing Co., warned the council about the potential for alienating international visitors, who now account for 20 percent of the company’s business.

“A lot of those people are still smokers,” she said.

When asked if she was speaking on behalf of the Aspen Skiing Co., Wilkinson hedged and said, “It’s not that we support smoking, but that we support our international guests. I just think you are shutting your doors a little bit.”

Mayor Manchester said he didn’t doubt that some smokers might choose to visit another resort, but he also said that since 75 percent of people are non-smokers, more people might now choose to visit Snowmass Village.

He said he could imagine a visitor saying, “I can go to a bar without sucking smoke in Snowmass Village? Let’s go!”

Bob Purvis, the third member of the Town Council to support the ban, said in terms of the economic question, “This really is a trade-off,” but that he would “err on the side of public health.”

Council member Dick Virtue was absent from the meeting while Doug Mercatoris stepped down from the table as he owns a bar and restaurant in town.

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