Ordinance will allow outdoor smoking after 10 p.m.

John Lee presented this photo to Glenwood Springs City Council Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, of a dustpan full of cigarette butts to illustrate how many he typically sweeps up from in front of his Providence Apothecary shop every couple of days.
Courtesy photo |

It will be OK to light up and smoke a cigarette on downtown Glenwood Springs sidewalks after 10 p.m., under a new ordinance adopted by City Council Thursday.

The ordinance prohibiting smoking in several public places around town passed on a 5-1 vote after the change was added at the request of bar owners and others who said an outright ban could negatively impact their business.

It bans smoking during most of the day, between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., when tourists and others who may prefer to avoid breathing second-hand smoke are more likely to be out and about.

“It’s never been our intention to put businesses at risk with this,” Councilor Stephen Bershenyi said.

“I can support this, and it makes some sense,” he said of the 10 p.m. reprieve for the bar patron crowd. “But tied to it should be a really strong message from this council that we expect (bar owners) to have a clean establishment out front every morning. If they can do that, I’m fine with it.”

One of the motives for imposing the smoking ban was the amount of cigarette butts that end up on public sidewalks, gutters and in planters around the downtown.

The outdoor smoking ban will extend to Glenwood Springs’ downtown core area, from Fifth Street north of the Hotel Colorado all the way south to 11th Street, and generally extending for a couple of blocks either side of Grand Avenue.

It also applies to all public parks and trails, including the Rio Grande Trail through Glenwood, and within 25 feet of all transit bus stops and outside of schools and school bus stops. Since city parks close at 10 p.m., the after-hours smoking allowance would not apply to those areas.

The new ordinance will officially take effect 10 days after a legal notice is published in the Post Independent. That means it should go into effect sometime around the first week of August.

Council had unanimously approved the new ordinance on first reading at its July 7 meeting. However, no members of the public were present to speak at that time so council decided to let the public have their say on Thursday.

Still, only three people spoke.

Steve Carter read a letter from Rob and Cindy Rightmire, owners of Doc Holliday’s Bar and the Springs Bar and Grille, who had the harshest criticism for the smoking ban.

“My wife and I own three buildings within the boundaries of the proposed ban, and have invested in and worked hard to build our businesses,” they said in the letter.

Now, they said they feel they are being “villainized” because of the groups of smokers who gather outside the bars, usually after dinner hours.

“We’re already dealing with the hardship from the bridge construction, sales are down and times are hard,” their letter continued.

The Rightmires said they would prefer the city wait to adopt the ordinance after the new Grand Avenue bridge is completed, and also suggested the 10 p.m. reprieve.

Downtown area resident Thomas Warren Ray said he often steps out onto the sidewalk in front of his apartment to have a cigarette, because smoking is not allowed in his building.

“My heart goes out to those who are sensitive to smoke … and I do try to put it out if I see a family or children walking my way,” Ray said. “But not being able to walk down the sidewalk and smoke a cigarette, I think that’s unconstitutional.”

Councilor Kathryn Trauger voted against the revised ordinance, saying she would rather see uniform, consistent enforcement instead of allowing smoking during certain hours.

“It’s going to make enforcement all the more difficult if sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t,” she said.

But Police Chief Terry Wilson said that lifting the ordinance for the late-night hours doesn’t hurt, and still accomplishes the objective of prohibiting smoking during the more sensitive daytime and evening hours.

He and others also suggested that not having to be concerned with enforcing the smoking ban at night would allow police officers to focus on some of the more pressing concerns that take place during those hours.

Council members also agreed that they can revisit the ordinance if any concerns about its effectiveness or enforcement come up after it’s in place.

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