Concord considers smoking ban downtown

September 27, 2011 12:15:39 AM PDT
The city of Concord is set to consider a tough ban on smoking on Tuesday night. If passed, those caught smoking could be charged with a misdemeanor. The ban would encompass a 17-block area around Todos Santos Plaza, the heart of downtown.

On weekend nights, Vinnie's Bar and Grill can host a crowd of 300, with 20 to 30 smoking on the sidewalk out front. Now a proposed smoking ban in Downtown Concord could force patrons to walk several blocks for a smoke.

"They're going to start writing tickets for customers and down the road that may end up chasing off business," said Landon Hathaway from Vinnie's.

The current restriction prohibits smoking within 20 feet of a business, but several business owners, in the Todos Santos Plaza are lobbying for an all-out ban.

"When we've got one outside dining area next to another one, next to another one, and then a doorway to another restaurant, in essence we needed to look at a broader ban that could clearly be identified to the public as to not allowing smoking outside," said Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister.

Employees who smoke in this designated area say they're already restricted enough.

"Now you're taking 10 minutes out of my break to make me walk a couple of blocks down the road to have a cigarette," said Steven Forbes, a smoker.

But for some, a 20-foot restriction isn't enough.

"If I can smell you smoking, I don't care if you're 40 feet away, it still doesn't count," said Mike Maqsoodi, a smoking ban supporter.

At the Panama Red Coffee Shop they believe it could impact business because for many of their customers, coffee and smoking go hand in hand.

"People like to chill, smoke cigarettes and drink coffee. So I feel like it can hurt some local coffee shops," said Joshua Barron, from Panama Red Coffee Shop.

Some businesses could apply for an exemption, but it might require the construction of a ventilated smoking area. Smokers and non-smokers alike can express their views at Tuesday's city council meeting which begins at 6:30 p.m.

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