Wider smoking ban may be on the way

Didn’t get to this yesterday: Remember last year when a compromise ban on smoking in restaurant dining areas but not bars was enacted? Well, it looks like that ban will be extended to include bars, thanks to the unexpected support of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association.

“We want to make sure that (the ban) is fair across the board,” said Carl Walker, president of the Restaurant Association and owner of Brennan’s of Houston. “Let’s just don’t focus on restaurants only.”

That position is new for the group; last year, it supported the city’s push for a partial ban. But without a comprehensive ban, bars have a competitive edge over restaurants, Walker said.

Since the ban likely will be strengthened in some way, Walker said, he and other restaurant owners would prefer it apply to all food and drink establishments, even if that means patrons in the bar areas of their restaurants no longer are allowed to smoke.

City law now allows smoking in bars as long as operators of restaurants that include bars take measures to keep smoke from drifting into dining areas. It also allows smoking on outdoor patios, which the Restaurant Association hopes would still be allowed.


The case for extending the ban was bolstered in July by a report by the U.S. surgeon general, who called for completely smoke-free workplaces.

“I think that took it to another level,” said Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, who chairs the public health committee and supports strengthening the ordinance. “That has, I think, brought a broader coalition of people together.”

The full council will consider a new ordinance, which has not yet been drafted, after the two committee hearings, she said.

Interesting. I’m happy to see this happen, though somewhat ambivalent about forcing it to happen legislatively. I’ll be curious to see how the bar owners react to this development.

Speaking of which, HandStamp comes out in favor of a smoke-free bar scene.

I’m all for a smoking ban in Houston bars. I hate breathing in your cigarette smoke when I’m within the confining, unbreathing walls of Rudyard’s. I hate having to come home and wash my hair just so that I can sleep without continuing to smell that filthy habit. Most importantly, I hate that I might be sacrificing my health just so I can see a band. I love live music, but I don’t want to give my life for it.

Boy howdy, Rudz is as bad as it gets, smokewise. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I was at a Spankers show there awhile back when the smoke got so bad, the band (almost all of whom smoke) actually asked everyone to refrain from lighting up for awhile.

The retort I hear from so many smokers is, “if you don’t like the smoke, leave the bar.” But I’m at the bar to see the band, I paid money to see the band, I’m not really there for the bar. And a lot of folks at the bar aren’t there for the music, they’re at the bar to smoke and talk and drink. Who gets the right of way in this situation? Will we be forced to divide music venues from the bars? It seems like such a good relationship in theory, but if the bar patrons insist on smoking and talking and live music listeners insist on breathing, how can we coexist?

Well, to use the case of Rudz again, the bar is downstairs and the stage is upstairs, so in theory you could smoke ’em if you’re there just to drink. I wouldn’t object to that. At a place like the Mucky Duck, where the only place to be during a show that won’t cost you admission is the outdoors patio, there’s no issue. (The Duck is also smoke-free now anyway; they tried a partial smoke-free solution some years ago, and apparently it was a success.)

Question for my Austin readers: Since that city passed a smoking ban over the outraged howls of the music scene, are the bars any less crowded? Have any gone out of business? Or has everyone gotten over it and adjusted to the new reality?

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One Response to Wider smoking ban may be on the way

  1. M1EK says:

    The bars are as full as ever – the primary remaining opposition are a handful of billiard parlors (who probably WERE hurt more than true bars) and a few bars holding on because their owners want to be able to smoke. Most have moved on, and the business is doing fine.

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