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Downtown could lose smoking on patios

Councilman's proposal could hurt business, one restaurant manager says.

July 29, 2010|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com

Huntington Beach smokers could be out of luck if they want to light up while eating on outdoor patios if the City Council approves a proposal Monday to ban the act.

The proposed ordinance would ban smoking on outdoor patios and within 20-feet of them in the downtown area, according the staff report. The proposal brought forth by Councilman Gil Coerper would enforce the ban between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Coerper was out of town and could not be immediately reached.

Restaurant patrons who light up could be charged with an infraction or a misdemeanor offense if the proposal is approved, City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said.

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Police Lt. Russell Reinhart said the department would enforce the ordinance however it is approved, but it is too early to say. Officers already ticket for smoking on the beaches and it would probably be similar, he said.

"We would enforce it appropriately," he said.

Bobbie Kneeland, the general manager of Aloha Grill on Main Street, said the restriction would make it harder for businesses in an already tough economy.

"I think it would definitely impact our business negatively," she said.

The restaurant has an outdoor eating area which patrons are free to smoke on. Residents are provided ashtrays, which they utilize, and are courteous of other patrons, said Kneeland.

"It's really not something that has ever presented a problem," she said.

Although Kneeland, a non-smoker, doesn't see it as an issue, community activist Mark Bixby does. Although he hasn't personally seen the ordinance, Bixby said he would support banning smoking in outdoor eating areas.

"I don't like to breath in cigarette smoke while I'm enjoying a meal," he said.

It's not just the smoke that concerns Bixby, who's family members have been affected by emphysema and lung cancer.

"I've seen what tobacco can do at a very personal level, so I don't want any exposure," he said.

However, Kneeland said the ban would create a bigger mess with restaurant-goers smoking on the sidewalks, clogging up doorways and stairways, or trying to smoke in the bathrooms. Besides the added mess, enforcing the proposed ordinances 20-feet restriction would be impossible, she said.

"What are we going to do?" Kneeland asked. "Walk around with tape measures?"

Reinhart said the ordiance wouldn't have a high priority if it came to fruiton.

"It would be something if we see it we would enforce it, but we wouldn't go out and look for it," he said.

Bixby admitted he could see it being a low priority for law enforcement downtown, but he still sees value in passing the proposal.

"I still think there is value, like I said, there is an educational aspect to it, he said.

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