Restaurants Worry About Smoking Ban Affecting Business

West Hollywood restaurants say they may loose customers when the new restaurant patio smoking ban goes into effect on Jan. 1

With the city’s new restaurant patio smoking ban going into effect on New Year’s Day, area restaurants are bracing for fallout from customers.

“About 50 percent of my customers are smokers,” reported Igor Nicholas, managing partner of Isla Cantina located at 8788 Sunset Blvd. at Holloway Street. “We have a very multi-culti clientele and they won’t like it.”

George Germanides, owner of Mirabelle Restaurant at 8768 Sunset Blvd., expects some frustrated customers. “They’re not going to be happy about this,” said Germanies, who estimates 20 percent of his patio customers smoke. “There are going to be a lot of complaints.”

The city is expecting there to be some resistance.

“We know there will be complaints from patrons,” said Anne McIntosh, the city’s Community Development Director. “The nature of any ordinance that affects a person’s behavior is there is initial resistance. Eventually they will understand it.”

Customers need not worry about the “smoking police” patrolling every restaurant. McIntosh says no city staff will be going out hunting for smokers violating the law.

“This will be handled through self-enforcement,” said McIntosh, explaining that it is the restaurant staff’s responsibility to inform a smoker of the new law and ask them to put out their cigarette. Similarly, patrons sitting nearby can ask a person to put out their cigarette.

Staff or customers have the option of calling the or code enforcement about the smoker, McIntosh said. But even after officials arrive, as long as the person puts out the cigarette when requested, that is the end of the matter. It is only if the person keeps smoking that he will get into legal trouble.

The smoker is the one who will be fined, not the restaurant, McIntosh said. Restaurants will only be fined if there are repeated reports of violations.

McIntosh was not sure of the exact amount of the monetary fine for violations, but said cited smokers do have the right to appeal a citation, much like a person can appeal a parking citation.

However, she emphasizes this ordinance is not about making money for the city. “We don’t want to fine people,” said McIntosh. “We want them to stop smoking.”

New Year’s Eve celebrations will not be affected since the new ordinance does not go into effect until 11 p.m. on Jan. 1, 2012. “We didn’t want to interfere with New Year’s Eve or the morning after, so we made it [take effect] at the end of the day on January 1,” McIntosh said.

Restaurants vs. nightclubs

There will likely be much confusion initially since bars and nightclubs are not affected by the law. For example, people will still be able to smoke on the patio at in Boystown, because it has a nightclub license, but not next door on the patio at , because it has a restaurant license.

Every business that is affected by the law must display a sign about the smoking ban near their entrance, McIntosh said. Code enforcement officials have been going around to businesses this past week, making sure the notices are posted.

“If people aren’t clear whether it’s a restaurant or a nightclub, look for the signs outside,” McIntosh said. “Or ask the staff if smoking is allowed.”

Losing a competitive advantage

As both Beverly Hills and Los Angeles banned smoking on restaurant patios some time ago, Weho restaurants have enjoyed increased business from smokers who want to have a cigarette with their meals. But this new law now takes away that competitive advantage from Weho restaurants.

“My customers come here knowing they can smoke,” Nicholas of Isla Cantina told Patch. “I don’t know if they will keep coming if they can no longer smoke here. Business is already down on the Strip with the economy so poor. This certainly isn’t going to help matters.”

George Mezo, general manger of Marco’s restaurant at 8200 Santa Monica Blvd. (at Havenhurst), estimates only 10 percent of the patrons in his outdoor dining area smoke, but he doesn’t want to risk losing their business.

“We should be allowed to accommodate our customers,” Mezo said. “[The ban is] taking away a right from people and from us as a restaurant.”

Nicholas reports Isla spent about $1 million renovating the building four years ago, including over $100,000 to remove the roof and install a retractable awning specifically to accommodate smoking on the patio.

“Everything was done in complete compliance as it was written at the time,” said Nicholas. “The city signed off on it and now they’re saying it’s no longer permissible. I don’t see why we should be impeded in our lawful pursuit of business.”

Separate smoking sections OK

The new law does allow restaurants, coffeeshops and hotels to set up a separate smoking area, away from the outdoor dining area.

“We recognize that people are still going to smoke, so a business can create a separate smoking area where it won’t bother nonsmokers,” McIntosh said, reporting that several dozen businesses have submitted the required “smoking operations plan” to the city and paid a $309 fee.

The main provision of the separate smoking area is that employees cannot serve food there. “The law is about protecting workers from second-hand smoke,” said McIntosh. However, customers can take their plate of food or their drinks to the smoking area if they choose, she said.

Germanides of Mirabella says he had planned to convert an area on the roof into a separate smoking section. “It is a nice area on the roof, so the smoke wouldn’t bother anyone,” said Germanides. “But code compliance says we can’t serve food up there.”

Germanides doesn’t know if it would be logistically feasible to have customers take their plates to the rooftop smoking area if they end up creating one there.

Mezo of Marco’s reports he is also investigating how to create a separate smoking section and possibly letting outdoor customers come pick up their food at the counter.

Likewise, Nicholas has also considered that option, but sums up the idea of customers picking up plates from the Isla kitchen as “cumbersome at best, chaotic at worst.”

Smoking OK on sidewalks

The new law does allow smoking on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant, provided a person is at least five feet away from the restaurant entrance or patio area.

That’s something that puzzles Mezo. “People can stand on the corner of the street and smoke, but they can’t smoke at the outdoor tables a few feet away?” Mezo said. “How is that protecting people from secondhand smoke?”

At the Daily Dose newsstand on Hancock Avenue at Santa Monica Boulevard, owners have already marked the sidewalk with chalk to indicate where patrons can smoke. That newsstand is covered by the five-feet rule of the ordinance because it has a public-eating license to sell snacks like M&Ms and potato chips.

However, smoking on the sidewalk will not be allowed when people are waiting in line at ATM machines, valet areas, to buy tickets at theaters, to get into a club, etc.

Mixed reaction from customers

As for restaurant customers, some are happy about the law.

“Finally, I’ll be able to sit outside on the patio and enjoy a meal,” said Brett Jeffries, who feels the law is long overdue. “I won’t have to worry about being downwind of a smoker.”

Others aren’t so happy about it.

“This is about punishing the restaurants and punishing the smokers,” said Shelia Lightfoot. “Things were working just fine before. Some restaurants made their patios nonsmoking, others allowed smoking on theirs. It left the choice to the businesses and their customers. But the city just wasn’t satisfied.”

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Michael J. McFadden December 30, 2011 at 11:26 PM
It's been interesting to watch Antismokers hone the finer points of social engineering and behavior control over the years. Of course the emphases on innocents being slaughtered by ETS (seen to be patent nonsense when first introduced) and the evil addiction of children to a drug more addictive than heroin (also seen as patent nonsense at first) both worked well after a few hundred million was spent on drilling them into the heads of the masses through the media (See Lie #2 at http://TheTruthIsALie.com for a bit more in that area), but even something as innocent as the timing of ban implementation is now attended to. Jan. 1st indoor bans were a big thing 5-10 years ago, but Antismokers eventually realized the inconvenience of dealing with NY Eve revelers and also the instant recalcitrance of the population faced with throwing smokers out into zero degree snowstorms. So they've gradually learned to generally have bans kick in during Springtime. People figure, "What the heck, this ain't so bad." and by the time the winter rolls around they've already been as conditioned to going outside as a rat is conditioned to avoid shock-punishing yellow cheese in favor of less tasty but non-shocking white cheese. Outdoor patio bans need the opposite timing: kick smokers out during winter when it's not such a big 'loss' for the venues or smokers, and by summer they're "conditioned" just like the rats. Michael J. McFadden, Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"
Sheila Lightfoot December 31, 2011 at 03:10 AM
Anne McIntosh probably knows the language of the Ordinance better than anyone. But her description of the provision for a smoking area and the reasoning behind the ban is misleading because of what she leaves out. She says: the main provision of the separate smoking area is that employees cannot serve food there, stating “the law is about protecting workers from second-hand smoke,” adding that customers can take their plate of food or their drinks to the smoking area if they choose. That implies that the purpose of the ordinance is to prevent any employee, even if they’re personally a smoker, from ever stepping foot into an outdoor area where they might be exposed to second-hand smoke by prohibiting them from serving food. The Ordinance, however, has no prohibition against serving drinks and no prohibition against employees clearing tables in the outdoor smoking area. The ONLY restriction is that “food” may not be “served.” Surely employees are no less exposed to secondhand smoke if they’re serving alcohol than if they’re serving food or less exposed if they’re clearing plates patrons carried to the tables themselves vs. plates that were brought by servers. Also, as Igor Nicholas summed up the concern of each of the restaurants, the idea of customers picking up plates of food and carrying them to their tables would be “cumbersome at best, chaotic at worst.” Nonsmoking patrons aren't affected at all if smokers are served food in a separated area.
Jerome Cleary December 31, 2011 at 03:44 AM
Michael J. McFadden December 31, 2011 at 04:36 AM
If the concerns are truly about the health of the workers, why does WeHo permit daytime outdoor dining? Solar radiation, in the amounts normally encountered by outdoor workers, is indisputably carcinogenic, unlike such exposure to secondary smoke. Sunscreen and awnings provide only "partial protection" such as would be provided by ventilation and air filtration for indoor smoking. Dining while basting one's melanomas is neither inherent nor necessary to dining and drinking. For consistency's sake I hope WeHo plans to "save" those workers from early and painful deaths by prohibiting patio dining during daylight hours... and perhaps on nights when a full moon is out (after all, reflected sunlight is STILL sunlight, and no "safe level of exposure" has ever been determined.) - MJM
Bob December 31, 2011 at 02:53 PM
The updated instructions are on page eighteen of the ban instruction book. Here's the book. ----- http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/CIA_Fundamentals.pdf
Lynn Russell December 31, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Living can be a hazardous endeavor and there are no guarantees.
jimmy palmieri December 31, 2011 at 03:27 PM
I am an ex-smoker (of about 14 years), but I deplore this ban. If I am near a smoker, many of which are my friends, I have the right to move myself out of the area should I choose to do so. I also know that anything coming from Anne McIntosh, to me, is suspect. She is quite possible one of the most distrusted, and disliked people at city hall. Aside from a few councilmembers.
A different Paul December 31, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Typo alert- "Lose customers" not "Loose customers" - "Loose customers" are exactly what most WeHo clubs want as patrons. "Lose customers" is what happens when the "loose customers" who smoke go away.
me December 31, 2011 at 07:17 PM
oh boo hoo....i don't like a lot of things in life, but that's how it is....people will continue to eat and drink and life will go on as usual for these business owners.....motorcyclists didn't like the helmet law, and they're still riding....stop the drama people....or maybe its time to just end yur filthy habit once and for all!!!!
Michael J. McFadden December 31, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Good point Bob! That CIA (Clean Indoor Air) handbook is one of the more comprehensive ones used by these supposedly "grassroots" astroturfed ban campaigns. There are at least a half dozen or so different ones out there though, all developed through fat grants and all with the same goal in mind: produce and implement effective actions that will result in the desired behavior control while keeping any independent resistance at a minimum. If the Brits had handbooks of the same quality as the Antismokers', the American Revolution would NEVER have happened. - MJM
Michael J. McFadden December 31, 2011 at 10:10 PM
Sheila, you wrote, "Nonsmoking patrons aren't affected at all if smokers are served food in a separated area." Perfectly true Sheila, but you have to remember the purpose of these laws: as Mayor Bloomberg pointed out in New York, it's simply "to make smoking as difficult and expensive as possible." The antismoking lobbyists will take every iota of every limitation on smoking they can possibly get, whether it makes sense or not. A year or so ago when the U. of GA produced a study about outdoor smoke in support of a push for a campus-wide ban I did some figuring from the scary sounding (but clearly twisted) statistics and measurements they used. Using their own figures I was able to show that students would have to work or play in the "smoke pits" outside of bars every single night for something like 12,000 years before they would have gotten the exposure equivalent to smoking a single pack of cigarettes. If you'd like to get a feel for the sort of "research" used to back these bans up, read the Klepeis study and my slightly tongue-in-cheek (but nonetheless well-portrayed) analysis of it at: http://wispofsmoke.net/satire.txt - MJM
Ali January 01, 2012 at 02:52 AM
I don't like this ban. I feel our City Government is intruding more and more into our lives. As a former smoker (5 yrs) I can tell you that a smoker has to be mentally ready to quit in order to be successful in a quit attempt. You can tell a person to quit smoking till you are blue in the face but it doesn't do a thing. I smoked for 42 years and watched my mother, father and brother die of lung cancer. I knew when I was ready and then just walked away from them. But for those that are ready, I read a book that helped me break the hardest part of the addiction, the psychological addiction. The book is called "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking" by Allen Carr. After reading that book, I walked away from cigarettes and never had a craving for one. I highly recommend reading that book when you decide you might be ready.
smartin January 01, 2012 at 04:01 PM
It is getting SOOOO boring hearing some elected officials and MANY grant spongers say they "want people to stop smoking". PUULLLEEAASSEE! The last thing these people want is for people to stop buying tobacco products! It would destroy the economy and would obliterate the pharma funded, nicotine replacement selling, grant sponging tobacco control movement! Ban the licensing of the selling of it or shut the hell up about where adult's can smoke on private property.
gene January 02, 2012 at 08:23 PM
It is getting SOOOO boring seeing these out-of-state campaigners invade yet another board -- google smartin, "bob" (bob johnson, aka generalsn) and especially the salesman trying to make his mark by publicizing his book and site, McFadden. You'll get tens of thousands of messages posted on innocent (naive, really) boards like the Patch. Have they ever set foot in the entire Southland in their lives? Unlikely. They're on a spam campaign, doesn't matter to them where they post their bilge.
Chloe Ross January 05, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Good points.
Chloe Ross January 05, 2012 at 11:12 AM
well put Mr. Martin
Liz Carie February 06, 2012 at 06:33 PM
It seems that stopping smoking in this country has done little for our placement as a healthy country. We are listed around number 30 in overall health worldwide. France is number 4, and with all the rich food they eat, the drinking and smoking like chimneys, they are beating our game!
Riley February 06, 2012 at 08:23 PM


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