Downtown businesses weigh in on Glenwood Springs smoking ban
Following City Council’s vote in favor of a smoking ban throughout downtown Glenwood Springs and other public places, local business owners voiced support for the ban, albeit with some caveats.
Council approved the ban on first reading Thursday. It must come back before council for a second reading before it can be adopted.
The ban would extend to the downtown development authority’s borders, which go as far south as 11th Street on Grand Avenue and as far north as Fifth Street on the opposite side of the Colorado River. It also extends to public parks and recreation areas, and smoking would be prohibited within 25 feet of transit stops and common, active or passive open space.
Among the businesses likely impacted by the ban are late night bars and restaurants where it is common for congregations of people to smoke outside the entrance.
Kevin Campbell is a part-owner of K Seas Wing House. As a bar with a large late-night crowd, he believes the ban is long overdue.
“It should have been banned a long time ago. It’s just not good for business,” Campbell said. “The amount of cigarette butts that we have to sweep up out front each morning is ridiculous.”
Campbell believes current restrictions do not do enough to stop people from smoking close to businesses.
“Even though they have to be 15 feet from the door, sometimes they smoke right at the doorway and people are turned away by it,” he said. “If they really want to smoke then they could find a place to smoke, but I don’t really think banning it would affect my business negatively.”
Rob Rightmire, owner of the Springs Downtown Bar & Grill and Doc Holliday’s Bar, also favors the change but points out that there will still be problems.
“If they try to ban smoking for 10 blocks, people will still find somewhere to go,” Rightmire said. “You’re not going to get 10 blocks of people to stop.”
Rightmire believes the ban will be impossible to enforce and unfair to businesses like his, which get the blame for drawing smokers.
“I don’t see it working,” Rightmire said. “People are not going to stop smoking. When we changed the law and made them do it outside — now they smoke in rainstorms and snowstorms. These people are down here every night. They aren’t just going to leave.”
It’s not just the bars and restaurants that have to deal with the smoke.
John Lee of Providence Apothecary actually brought the issue before council last September.
Providence Apothecary is located on Cooper Avenue, where there is not an abundance of bars and restaurants. Yet, Lee regularly has to sweep up piles of cigarette butts in front of his store.
In September, he presented a photo to City Council that he took of a dust pan filled with cigarette butts that he had cleaned up from in front of Providence Apothecary.
“The biggest problem is the litter, and that photo wasn’t just an oddball occurrence,” Lee said.
The proposed ban also targets public areas, such as at public transit stops.
Dan Blankenship, CEO of the Roaring Fork Transit Authority, said RFTA has been dealing with the issue for a long time.
“In general, the accumulation of cigarette butts around bus stops is an ongoing issue,” Blankenship said. “We have containers to put the cigarettes out in, however, it’s amazing how many people still throw them out on the ground.”
Blankenship said this issue has been brought to RFTA’s attention via citizen complaints in the past.
“In the past month or so I received a passionate complaint from a passenger about her frustration with people smoking at bus stops in Glenwood,” Blankenship said. “It’s a common problem that we have.”
Many of the businesses and their employees believe that smokers have rights too, but that a conflict of space occurs when smokers light up in areas with people who may not want to be exposed to the smoke.
“I respect the rights of smokers,” Lee said, “so I would support designated smoking areas in downtown with appropriate enforcement. There has to be a dialogue on what should be done; how many spots there should be.”
Common courtesy also is a must, according to Blankenship.
“Some people have allergies or are bothered by the offensive odor,” he said. “Some of these spaces that people use in public are very confined, especially in the wintertime. It’s not very thoughtful for people to just light up.”
After unanimously approving the ban Thursday evening without any comments from residents, several city officials noted there will likely be a more robust conversation when the ban comes back before council.
That will likely be at council’s July 21 meeting.
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