Council gives eateries non-smoke break
Restaurants that ban smoking in their dining areas will receive a break on their business license fees in the city of Atlanta.
An ordinance approved Monday afternoon by the Atlanta City Council will give restaurants a 20 percent reduction in the charges for their business licenses if they register their intentions with the city by Jan. 1. The exemption will apply for three years.
"Hopefully, it will lead eventually to a completely smoke-free environment," said Councilman Jim Maddox, who co-sponsored the ordinance.
The smoking-ban exemption for restaurants was the recommendation of a yearlong task force on the issue that included clean air advocates as well as restaurant industry representatives.
"There was a lot of debate on both sides of the issue," said Ralph Bilbrey, who represented the Georgia Hospitality and Travel Association on the task force. "I think this is an added incentive that some people will take advantage of."
Many restaurants already are smoke-free because the numbers of people who smoke are dropping, according to Bilbrey.
"Restaurants are reacting to the marketplace," Bilbrey said. "More and more, you're seeing restaurants going to non-smoking."
Councilwoman Clair Muller, chairwoman of the council's City Utilities Committee, said that if every eligible restaurant in Atlanta takes advantage of the business license break, it will cost the city about $300,000 each year. Not every eligible restaurant is expected to take the city's offer.
Those that do will be required to "conspicuously" display no-smoking signs. Any restaurant that applies for the exemption but violates its intent will be fined 10 percent of its business license cost or $100, whichever is greater.