Category: Archive

Council steps in, forcing delay in Hub smoking vote

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The commission, which was given the legislative authority in 1995 to rule on all matters affecting the public health, was expected to vote on the proposed regulations on Nov. 6.
Amid complaints that the process was proceeding too swiftly, with insufficient input from bar owners, that vote has been postponed until early December.
The City Council’s involvement is seen as a stumbling block for proponents of the regulations, which would ban smoking in all bars and workplaces in the city, although opponents of the ban acknowledge that the commission appears to have the final authority in the matter.
As reported in the Echo two weeks ago, city councilor Jim Kelly of South Boston likened the imposition of the ban to the “heavy hand of city government coming down on the neighborhood bars.” Since then, other city councilors have expressed concern about a potentially negative impact that the ban might have on the city’s economy, including the areas of travel and tourism.
Last month, City Council president Michael Flaherty wrote to the commission saying he was concerned about the “lack of public process.” And last week three city councilors joined Kelly in calling for the public hearing, which will now be held on Monday, Nov. 18, at 4 p.m., at City Hall.
A similar ban has been in effect on Cape Cod for more than a year, where smoking is now outlawed in 12 of the 15 towns. Limited smoking is permitted in Mashpee, Falmouth and Wellfleet.
Tom Murphy, head of the mid-Cape Yarmouth Restaurant Association, said last week that it is important to draw a clear distinction between bars and restaurants when discussing the impact that the smoking bans have had on business.
“The ban hasn’t been bad for the restaurant business, but it’s a different story for the bars,” he said. “The all-pouring establishments have been hit the hardest, and in some cases it’s been catastrophic.”
Since March 1998, smoking has been banned in restaurants in Boston, but provisions have allowed smoking in bar areas of the restaurants. Opponents of the total ban are arguing that the policies presently in effect have been working satisfactorily, and the debate is heating up.

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