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Beverly Hills one step closer to a smoking ban

From KTLA

8:51 AM PDT, May 30, 2007

The Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban smoking in nearly all outdoor dining areas within the city limits, after it rejected pleas from restaurant owners who claimed it would hurt their business.

An amendment approved would require hotels to allow smoking in 25 percent of their poolside dining areas.

If given final approval at the June 19 council meeting, the ban would go into effect October 1.

Violators would be cited. The fine for the first offense would be $100, $200 for a second offense within one year and $500 for each additional violation within one year, according to Daniel E. Cartagena, a project manager with Beverly Hills' Department of Economic Development.

Cartagena said he expected few tickets would be issued, with diners or staff pointing out the smoking ban, prompting smokers to stop, as has occurred in other cities with similar smoking bans.

"This is significantly self-policing," Cartagena said in an interview before the vote.

The proposal also calls for city staff to evaluate the effects of the measure, including if it results in declining business at restaurants offering outdoor dining and less sales-tax revenue for the city, and another hearing before the council before May 31, 2008.

If the ban caused too many problems, the City Council could repeal the ordinance before May 31, 2008, Cartagena said.

The proposal stemmed from a suggestion by Councilman Barry Brucker in September following complaints from the public, Cartagena said.

A two-member ad hoc committee consisting of Brucker and Councilwoman Linda Briskman met three times to study the issue and make recommendations to city staff members, who developed an initial proposal, which was revised following an April 26 council study session and meetings between the committee, Chamber of Commerce and Beverly Hills Restaurant Association, Cartagena said.

Only a few Beverly Hills restaurants have large outdoor dining areas. One is Caffe Roma, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the actor Sylvester Stallone regularly smoke cigars while in the outdoor dining area.

Many restaurants have small tables for sidewalk dining, under a plan adopted by the City Council to give Beverly Hills' business district a "European-style look and feel," according to an official of the Beverly Hills Restaurant Association.

Restaurants pay a fee for being able to use the sidewalks and to build barriers, with the understanding they could be used by smokers, the official said.

Opponents say the ban could prompt smokers to eat at restaurants in nearby Los Angeles or West Hollywood, where smoking is allowed outdoors, thus costing Beverly Hills sales tax revenue.

Smoking is banned in restaurants under state law. Burbank, Calabasas and Santa Monica have adopted outdoor smoking bans.



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