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New Outdoor Smoking Provision on the Horizon

By Jorge Casuso and Anita Varghese
Staff Writers

September 18 -- Restaurant owners who allow patrons to smoke outside their establishments could face fines under a provision to help enforce Santa Monica’s smoking ban being crafted by the City Attorneys office.

Despite an expansive outdoor smoking ordinance instituted in November 2006 that bans smoking in outdoor dining areas and within 20 feet of entrances, exits and windows that can open, City officials worry that restaurant patrons are still lighting up.

The ban -- which, also prohibits smoking in outdoor waiting areas, such as ATMs, bus stops and movie theater lines, as well as farmers markets and on the Third Street Promenade -- imposes $250 fines on smokers caught by law enforcement officers breaking the law.

The new provision, which is expected to go before the City Council in the next two months, would impose similar fines on restaurant owners who look the other way to allow patrons to smoke.

“Under the current law, they’re not liable, the smoker is liable,” said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky.

In recent months, there has been an increase in the number of smokers fined $250 each for violating the city’s ordinance, Radinsky said.

Of the 20 citations handed out this year, 17 were given from May through August, according to City officials.

Three other Southern California cities -- Calabasas, Beverly Hills and Burbank -- have imposed smoking bans similar to Santa Monica’s, and all three have provisions that fine restaurant owners who allow smoking outside their establishments, Radinsky said.

“It’s the idea of having some uniformity,” he said. “You want to level the playing field so that you don’t have a hot spot for smokers to go to. It’s against the law.”

Unlike the current measure, which is enforced by police officers and park rangers with the authority to issue citations, the proposed ordinance would likely be enforced by undercover inspectors, Radinsky said.

To be cited, the restaurant owner or worker would have to see a customer smoking and do nothing about it, Radinsky said.

“Knowingly or intentionally allowing someone to smoke is an automatic citation,” Radinsky said.

Using undercover inspectors to find violations was “very effective” in the effort to enforce California’s statewide indoor smoking ban when it became law in January 1998, Radinsky said.

The Santa Monica City Attorneys Office held a meeting Monday with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau and the California Restaurant Association to discuss new enforcement procedures.

Only one restaurant owner showed up and the association does not plan to oppose the provision, said Samantha O’Neil, director of government affairs for the Chamber of Commerce.

She notified every restaurant owner who belongs to the chamber about Monday’s meeting, but to her knowledge, only West Hooker of Locanda Del Lago showed up, and he’s a member of the Convention and Visitors Bureau board, which also was notified.

“We also spoke to two representatives of the California Restaurant Association who have been working closely with City officials on drafting enforcement procedures,” O’Neil said.

“They are comfortable with the language that has been proposed, because they believe only restaurant owners who knowingly and willfully violate the ordinance will be cited,” she said.

O’Neil said a clear example of willfully violating the law would be bringing an ashtray to a patron.

However, some restaurant owners could express their dismay at the proposal when more details of a new ordinance emerge.

“I understand the health concerns associated with smoking and the ban on smoking inside restaurants,” said Maxwell Hessman, manager of Fritto Misto on Colorado Avenue, “but the ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas and now trying to come up with a plan to cite restaurants are ridiculous examples of an overbearing government.

“People have a right to smoke in outdoor public places,” Hessman said. “Everyone can still drive Hummers and other big sport utility vehicles down any street in Santa Monica. This kind of air pollution causes more deaths and more health problems than second-hand smoke from people who smoke outdoors.”

The City of Santa Monica instituted its 2006 outdoor smoking ban after the California Air Resources Board declared second-hand smoke a toxic substance earlier that year.

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“Knowingly or intentionally allowing someone to smoke is an automatic citation.” Adam Radinsky


The California Restaurant Association "is comfortable with the language that has been proposed.” Samantha O’Neil


"The ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas and now trying to come up with a plan to cite restaurants are ridiculous examples of an overbearing government." Maxwell Hessman


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