Clearing the smoke

Smoking ban goes into effect July 1

On July 1, a smoking ban will be in place for all of Colorado. The law requires that most public areas and a 15-foot radius around entryways leading into buildings be smoke free.

The public areas that will be affected include bars, restaurants, pool halls, bowling alleys, meeting spaces and most work places.

One local business owner said this ban will put unneeded stress on running his establishment.

Tom Mathers, owner and operator of Mathers' Bar, said he does not support this ban.

"This is a horrible, horrible law," he said.

Mathers said that the law takes the decision to have smoking in his bar out of his hands.

He said that his employees have to work harder to spot people smoking. For instance, if out-of-state visitors come in and are not aware of the ban, Mathers and the smoker could be fined.

Under the ban, if a bar owner doesn't tell a patron to stop smoking, the owner can receive the same fine as the smoker.

The first infraction is $200, the second is $300, and the fine raises to $500 each time after that.

Delbert Knez, owner of the OP Bar & Grill, said he doesn't mind the ban.

"It's the law. We have to enforce it, and we are going to comply," he said.

Knez said that the ban won't hurt his business at all, because he has a patio in the beer garden behind his bar, where people already smoke.

Dan Garcia, a cook at the OP, was taking a smoke break Thursday afternoon. He said he knows the ban initially might drive people away.

"They will eventually come back," he said. "It's just a matter of stepping outside to smoke."

Knez said the 15-foot-radius stipulation of the law is the strangest part.

"People can't smoke when they walk downtown, unless they walk down the middle of the highway," he said. "They ought to put ashtrays down the street."

Knez added that with the ban, people might re-create their high school days and secretly smoke in the bathrooms.

All joking aside, Knez said he knew this ban was coming and what it meant to his business.

"I should have written (the governor) before they passed it," Knez said. "It would have been better if the public voted on this, instead of senators."

Because of his opposition to the ban, Mathers joined other bar and restaurant owners in an injunction filed by the Mountain States Legal Foundation against the ban.

"We need to keep our right as businessmen to make our own decisions," Mathers said.

A hearing to review the temporary restraining order is set for 8:30 a.m. today at the United States District Court in Denver.

Chris Sherwin, executive director of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance, said a judge will rule on a request to delay implementation of the law.

"It is extraordinarily rare for a judge to grant the request for this restraining order," Sherwin said.

He said a similar case appeared in New Jersey, and the judge ruled against the request, and the ban went into effect as planned.

"This ban has been overwhelmingly supported by the public," Sherwin said.

Teresa Wright, tobacco prevention coordinator of the Northwestern Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said the smoking ban is about affecting the health of the community at large. "This is going to improve public health of our state by decreasing second-hand smoke," she said.

She said studies done in the 12 states the ban is already in place show positive effects on business.

Bar receipts have increased each year in California after the smoke-free law was enacted there in 1997, according to a VNA press release. Restaurant sales in Florida went up 7 percent in one year after a statewide smoking ban.

"I think (the ban) is essential," Wright said. "It is important to protect the air for people who don't want to smoke."

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