Snowmass Village ban on smoking could start in May |

Snowmass Village ban on smoking could start in May

Brent Gardner-Smith

The Snowmass Village Town Council voted to ban smoking in all enclosed public places in the resort community beginning May 1, 2001.

The board passed the ordinance at first reading during a special meeting Monday night. A public hearing and a final vote are scheduled for Feb. 19.

Four of the five Town Council members voted yes on the ordinance. Council member Doug Mercatoris abstained as he owns the Mountain Dragon restaurant and bar in Snowmass Village.

His nephew, Mike Mercatoris, is a bar manager at the Dragon and led the effort to gather signatures on a petition presented to the Town Council in January in favor of the ban. The Town Council responded to the pleas of bartenders, cocktail waitresses and other restaurant employees in Snowmass Village who were tired of breathing smoke on the job.

“The Town Council finds that the hazards caused by environmental tobacco smoke are an unnecessary health hazard for employees as well as patrons of public areas including restaurants and bars,” the ordinance passed on Monday night reads. It also says that “the Town Council finds that smoking is not a right, but a privilege and that the exercise of such privilege to smoke in public places is harmful to the health of the public.”

The advocates of the ban also said it would be easier to deal with smokers, especially those who have had a few drinks, if there was a town-wide policy against smoking.

Today in Snowmass Village smoking is prohibited in enclosed restaurants but is still allowed in bars, although at least one establishment has voluntarily banned the act.

Smokers will still be allowed to light up at outdoor bars and restaurants in Snowmass Village as the ban only covers smoking in enclosed public spaces.

There is an outdoor bar on the deck at the Cirque restaurant at the end of the Snowmass Mall that operates throughout the winter. In the summer, there are at least six restaurants and bars in the village that have outside seating.

In a nod to a popular magic act at the Tower Restaurant in Snowmass Village that involves a burning cigarette, the new law exempts “theatrical performances” from the ban.

And yes, the ban extends beyond tobacco to any “combustible substance in any form.”

The council in Snowmass Village was first presented with a petition signed by local employees in January and has moved quickly to adopt the new measure.

“It is just one of those things where, if it is a good idea, why not move it all along,” said council member Arnie Mordkin.

Some, however, think the move will be bad for business. Bill Burwell, the owner of the Silvertree Hotel in Snowmass Village, said the ban would be bad for business, especially among European guests.

“Europeans will not come to a non-smoking area,” he said.

If approved on second reading, the new law would go further than the current regulations in the city of Aspen, which prohibit smoking in restaurants but allow it in bar areas next to dining rooms. In Pitkin County, smoking is banned inside, but the regulation affects only a handful of restaurants.

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