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Beverly Hills to Allow Smoking Areas in Cafes

July 22, 1987|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

The Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to amend its tough anti-smoking ordinance to allow the city's restaurant owners to set up separate sections for smokers.

The city drew national attention four months ago when the council, acting to protect the health of nonsmokers, adopted the ordinance prohibiting smoking in indoor restaurants. The law exempts bars, lounges, private banquet rooms and restaurants in hotels. Violators were subject to a $500 fine.

Tuesday's 5-0 vote, after a motion by Councilman Robert Tannenbaum that was seconded by Councilman Maxwell Salter, marks a relaxing of the ordinance for restaurant owners, who have repeatedly claimed that their customers are dining at restaurants in Los Angeles and West Hollywood, where smoking is permitted.

Councilwoman Donna Ellman said the old law was hurting many of the city's small restaurants.

"When we passed this ordinance," she said, "we did not intend to be pioneers. We did not want to be nationally famous. What we wanted to do is to provide some protection for the health of the people in the community. We also want to provide economic health for others (restaurant owners) in the community. This (amended) ordinance will provide both."

Mayor Benjamin Stansbury said that the amendment will preserve the intent of the law "to provide a smoke-free environment."

"I think it's a much tougher ordinance, a much stronger ordinance. It will force the restaurants to provide greater protection for nonsmokers under standards set by the city," he said.

The law will be changed to allow restaurants to designate up to half of their space as a smoking section.

Restaurants seating more than 50 customers will be required to install separate ventilation systems to prevent the smoke from entering nonsmoking areas. Those restaurants seating fewer than 50 (about half of the 130 restaurants in the city) will not be required to install ventilation systems.

Criteria and standards for the ventilation systems will be developed by the staff of the city Building and Safety Department, with the aid of an outside consultant.

Restaurants' bar areas will no longer be exempt as under the original ordinance, and must be included in the ventilation system.

The larger restaurants will be given 90 days to submit plans to install ventilation systems and six months to complete the job. They will be allowed to permit smoking as soon as they submit plans for the ventilation system.

Rudy Cole, spokesman for the 60-member Beverly Hills Restaurant Assn., praised the amendment as "a good compromise solution."

"Not everyone will be pleased or satisfied," he said. "Many restaurants would prefer to permit the marketplace and their customers to determine smoking policies, but we do have a responsible solution to a very difficult problem. The council's action should not be viewed as a victory for smoking."

The move to modify the law was given a boost when the restaurant owners agreed last month to drop their lawsuit against the city to encourage a compromise. Earlier, the state Supreme Court had rejected a claim that the law was unconstitutional.

The president of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, Walt Bilofsky, said the city had acted prematurely.

"It's a shame that the City Council did not leave the ordinance in place long enough to give it a chance to work," he said. "I'm also skeptical that any practical ventilation will be enough to protect nonsmokers, but that is up to the city."

City officials said that since the law took effect April 3, only one citation has been issued. There have been 13 complaints. The city also has received reports that as many as 40 restaurants were openly violating the law.

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