Smoking ban no big deal at many area bars
Colorado bars and restaurants will go entirely smoke-free starting Saturday, and reactions from bar owners and residents are mixed.Nonsmokers across the state have rejoiced that they’ll no longer reek of cigarette smoke after a night out, but Aspen smokers like C.W. Rasch and Ben Frey don’t think the ban makes much sense in a place like Aspen. They say most establishments here already choose to be nonsmoking, so there are plenty of alternatives to the few remaining places that allow smoking.”This isn’t the only place you can have a burger,” Rasch said while puffing a cigarette outside Bentley’s. Bentley’s allows smoking, but only after 10 p.m.The new state law bans smoking in bars, restaurants, and other establishments and public places. Plus, the law says patrons must smoke at least 15 feet from a main entrance.Many bar owners aren’t worried about the ban having an effect on business because it applies to everyone. Customers won’t be able to hop over to the next city or county, as was the case with similar bans counties and municipalities imposed.Mike Stascavage, the owner of the Shortstop in El Jebel, said he’s already been smoke-free for a few months because of a strict smoking ban in Eagle County that took effect in March.Stascavage was worried before that ban took effect, but he said the county’s ban has had “no effect at all” on business. There isn’t much reason to worry about losing business since all Colorado bars will have to play by the same rules, he said.”[The ban] will almost even out the playing field,” Stascavage said. “That’s just the way it is, that’s all.”Keith Hatanaka, the manager at Bentley’s, was also confident the ban wouldn’t push any of his late-night bar customers away.”Everyone knows about it,” Hatanaka said. “We already have nonsmoking signs up. It’s going to be a nonissue.”His customers also haven’t complained much. “It’s just an accepted fact,” he said.Scott Outten, one of the co-owners of Stubbies in Basalt, said he also doesn’t anticipate any negative effects on business. “Who knows? I’m hoping it has a positive effect,” Outten said. “You don’t know until it comes. On a personal level, I’ll be glad not to clean ashtrays anymore.”Stubbies does have an open patio people can smoke on, though, and Outten plans to put up signs and extra ashtrays outside so customers don’t light up indoors.Outten also said a smoke-free environment would be a lot cleaner and make the place more attractive to customers. He’s hoping to install new barstools and carpeting once the ban takes effect.”We can make some improvements and not fear someone will burn a hole in it the first week,” he said.However, McStorlie’s bartender and cook Alejandra Valdes wasn’t so optimistic. The pub is nonsmoking inside, but customers can smoke on the outdoor patio. When the smoking ban takes effect, the patio will have to go nonsmoking because it is well within 15 feet of the main entrance. Because the pub sits below ground level, customers will have to walk upstairs to the sidewalk to smoke.”It’s going to be hard to enforce,” Valdes said. “How can you tell somebody not to smoke in an open space?”That could mean lots of people loitering on the sidewalk or in the street – and more cigarette butts, too.”I don’t think authorities will appreciate that,” Valdes said.She estimated fewer than half of her customers smoke, but added that many familiar, loyal customers are smokers.”The big customers, the ones that like to drink, they smoke,” she said.The Aspen Police Department says it will generally handle enforcement on a complaint basis. The department will likely also have an education period during which someone violating the ban will get a warning.But smokers like Frey don’t think the department will spend time enforcing other parts of the ban, like the rule requiring smokers to be at least 15 feet from an entrance.”They’ve got plenty of other s— to do,” he said.Rasch simply isn’t looking forward to smoking outside when it’s hot in summer and frigid in winter. He sums up his frustration over the ban with his advice to nonsmokers who complain about secondhand smoke:”Start smoking, and you won’t have this problem.”You can smoke: On an outdoor patio In a privately hired limousine A hotel room designated for smoking In your own home In a cigar/tobacco barIn a licensed casinoYou can’t smoke: In a bar or restaurant In common areas of apartment buildings and hotels In a public building In a building’s entryway, or within 15 feet of a building’s main entranceBar owners and customers both can be held responsible for violations. The fine is $200 for the first offense, $300 for the second and $500 for subsequent offenses through the next calendar year.Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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