Families caught in odd twist of new anti-smoking laws
More than a month after no-smoking bylaws took effect in Toronto, York and Peel regions, some parents find they can't take their children to their favourite restaurants anymore.
``The one comment that we get from people is that the place that was their family restaurant on May 31 chose to designate themselves as a bar on June 1,'' said Pam Scharfe, of the Toronto board of health. ``I think people are disappointed about that.''
Until June 1, 2004, bars are exempt from complying with the law and owners can continue to use up to 25 per cent of their seating for smokers. Restaurant patios also remain a refuge for smokers.
Scharfe estimates that 12 per cent of the 8,000 restaurants - around 960 - in the city chose to turn their restaurants into bars.
Annex-area father Richard Burdett, for one, is upset. He and his daughter have now been turned away from the restaurant-turned-bar Pauper's Pub on Bloor St. where they used to have brunch together.
``We used to love going there, but now we have to spend ages just looking for a place that will let us in to eat,'' he said.
James Gardner, another frustrated father, is also annoyed that his two young children can't have lunch with him at their favourite Beaches-area restaurant, Quigley's.
``Unfortunately, in today's world, there are so few hours that you can actually spend with your children, and it was great to be able to have lunch with them,'' he said.
The sore point for both owners and diners continues to be this exclusion of families from what were once popular neighbourhood spots.
Children are now only allowed on the patio, and have to walk around the building through the parking lot to the front door to get to the bathroom, since under the bylaw no minor can go through the restaurant if it is designated as a bar.
``The families around here are actually quite disappointed with the bylaw. The parents around here are just shaking their heads and think it's very absurd,'' says Quigley's day manager Joanne Flowers.
So far, owners of only 45 of the 932 Toronto restaurants, bars and taverns inspected in June have been charged or had charges pending, said Scharfe.
In Peel Region, only 11 charges were laid in six of the 360 establishments where the Peel health department inspected in June.
In York Region, the most recent figures show that last month 464 inspections led to 72 statements of infraction to owners, who were given two weeks to comply. After repeat visits, four tickets were issued, said Soo Wong, of York Region.
Some restaurants with patios may unwittingly be breaking a law in ways enforcers may not expect.
Although it's technically all right to have children on the patio, under the bylaw it's illegal to let them inside where smoking is allowed, even to use the bathroom. But under provincial legislation, it's illegal not to provide a bathroom for all your patrons - including children - even if they don't need to use it.
``They're not in contravention of the bylaw by having kids on the patio. They're in contravention of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation,'' explained Scharfe, adding that ``this legislation says you must allow access to your washrooms by your patrons.''
It's a practice that won't draw a ticket as an infraction under the no-smoking bylaw enforcement officers but may catch the attention of a food health and safety inspector.
Smokers in coffee shops, usually too small for a separately ventilated smoking room, are thankful for a patio smoking section.
``What are we going to do in the winter?'' wondered Sharon McLean, a regular on the patio at the now smoke-free Country Style Donuts at 92 King St. E., where 14 of the total 38 seats are outside.