Denver again eyes smoking ban
Watch out Denver smokers. The city may snuff you out.
Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and Denver City Councilwoman Happy Haynes on Monday will announce a proposal to eliminate smoking in restaurants and limit smoking in other public spaces.
Details were still being worked out this weekend, and any limits would still need approval by the council.
But Haynes said the proposal will stop short of a ban. She said the plan is to bring the ordinance to committee by mid-May.
Smokers would be able to partake in bars, cigar bars and Denver International Airport's smoking lounges. Restaurants would be off-limits, and the measure could also prohibit smoking in small offices that are located in larger office buildings that have a central air system, Haynes said.
"What I wanted to focus on was employee health and the effects of secondhand smoke in an enclosed environment," Haynes said Saturday. "We are not trailblazing by any means, as other cities and states have taken this step. The evidence is pretty compelling that the feared economic impacts have not materialized."
But owners of businesses such as Duffy's, 1635 Court Place, could feel the heat if a smoking ban is passed. The problem for the bar and tavern in downtown Denver is that its bar area and restaurant are separated by only a few feet and nothing in between.
"I know it's going to hurt my business" if the ban is enacted, Duffy's manager Gary Naffah said. "People will not park downtown and they will not go to restaurants. They will go elsewhere, and we can't afford it."
Haynes said the council will need to discuss how or if to include establishments such as Duffy's in the proposal.
Colorado communities such as Fort Collins, Louisville, Boulder, Aspen and Pitkin County have comprehensive smoking ordinances in place. In May, Pueblo residents will decide if the city will go smoke-free.
Denver's Board of Environmental Health in January endorsed a proposal for a total smoking ban because of dangers to public health. The city's current smoking law dates to 1993.
Smokers and nonsmokers out and about Saturday had different opinions about the ban.
John Hallin, 51, of Denver sat at Duffy's bar and flicked the ashes of a cigarette into an ashtray as he said the ban is a good idea.
"These workers have a right to work in a nontoxic environment," Hallin said as he pointed at the bartenders. "Smoking's a terrible addiction and I'm horribly addicted.
"But if it comes to the point where I can't publicly smoke and have a beer, then I'll just have a beer at home."
Lori Barker, a nonsmoker who has been a patron of Duffy's for about 27 years, said enacting a ban would put people's freedoms at risk.
"You come in here and you know what to expect," she said. "You don't come in here if you don't want to deal with the smoking. I don't like having the government telling me what to do or telling my friends not to smoke."
At Govnr's Park Restaurant & Tavern, 672 Logan St., the majority of the customers were sitting on the patio, basking in the afternoon sun and enjoying a smoke.
Inside, some chose to light up while watching the Rockies baseball game.
But only three of the nonsmoking booths were occupied.
"If people want to smoke, that's their choice, but others shouldn't be put at risk," Boulder resident Jacey Tramutt said as she and friends sat in the nonsmoking section. "In Boulder, I think it works out just fine by making separate areas or increasing ventilation."
In 1995, Boulder required that smoking be limited to designated areas in separate and independently ventilated rooms.
Cities such as Fort Collins and Louisville followed suit last year.
While Louisville eliminated smoking in all restaurants and bars, the Fort Collins ban, which will take effect Oct. 1, will still allow smoking at outdoor events and in separately ventilated smoking rooms at taverns.
Thomas Lobene, a Govnr's Park manager, said that if Denver decides to follow the same path as Fort Collins, the 26-year-old restaurant and bar would take a big hit.
"I can see it if they applied the ban across the ... area or statewide, but just in the city and county of Denver? It's going to run people out of town," he said.