Snowmass may be sick of smoking |

Snowmass may be sick of smoking

Brent Gardner-Smith

The Snowmass Village Town Council is reaching for the ashtray on the bar.

During a work session Monday, the board directed the town attorney to draft an ordinance for review on Feb. 12 that would make it illegal to smoke in the town’s bars.

Smoking in restaurants and other public places in Snowmass Village is already outlawed. The new legislation, which has the support of a majority of the council, would add bars to the list of places where smoking is prohibited.

“This is a health issue for employees,” said Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester. “They are putting their lives at risk for someone else’s personal freedom.”

The initiative to ban smoking in bars is coming from a group of bar employees in the village, according to Mike Mercatoris, the bar manager at the Mountain Dragon and the nephew of bar owner and Town Council member Doug Mercatoris.

Doug “Merc” Mercatoris stepped away from the council table during the discussion on the issue to avoid a conflict of interest.

The former smoker and longtime bartender is undergoing treatment for cancer of the soft palate and attended his first meeting Monday after losing his hair. His presence in the audience added poignancy to the discussion.

“It’s a proven fact that secondhand smoke kills,” said Mike Mercatoris. “We’re trying to protect the health of the public.”

But not everyone in Snowmass Village thinks secondhand smoke is a killer, or that smoking in bars should be banned.

Lance Burwell, general counsel for the Silvertree Hotel, one of the largest employers in Snowmass Village, said he questioned the science behind the studies that show secondhand smoke is a health risk and said the ban would be bad for business.

“A large number of our patrons do

smoke,” he said. “We need to cater to our visitors.”

Bill Burwell, the owner of the Silvertree, said that European guests in particular would find the ban offensive.

“With all deference to Merc’s situation,” he said before making his point, “Europeans will not come to a non-smoking area.”

Pointing out that the resort was struggling financially, Burwell said the smoking ban would be “just one more needle in the body of this declining resort.”

Aspen still allows smoking in bars that are separated from dining rooms, although some establishments, such as Little Annie’s, have taken steps on their own to banish smokers to the sidewalk. Pitkin County bans smoking in both restaurants and bars.

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