September 29, 2014

Concerns over smoking ban in downtown Boulder restaurant district

A potential smoking ban in Boulder may effect the restaurant industry.A proposed expansion to an existing ban on smoking has drawn strong opinions from a number of demographics key to Boulder’s business district. Among them are smokers, business owners, Colorado culinary school┬ástudents and general civilians, all armed with outspoken thoughts regarding the potential merits or detriments to such an expansion. While the general opinion of the public seems to be split, one focal point that continues to come up time and time again on both sides of the issue is the effect such an expansion would have on Boulder’s restaurant industry. Regardless of what the ultimate outcome is, it’s clear that the culinary scene in downtown Boulder will be at the center of the decision.

The proposed expansion
Boulder already has a smoking ban in place that covers both the Pearl Street Mall area and the municipal high school campus nearby, according to The Daily Camera. An expansion will occur near the end of September that will broaden the range of the ban, stretching it predominantly Southeast from Broadway and Araphoe to University and 17th. City officials and anti-smoking lobbyists, however, have proposed an even greater expansion, which would cover the entirety of the downtown business district. That addendum would also ban smoking on any and all city owned property, regardless of its proximity to the business district.

Objections
While the argument against smoking in public is a clear one and doesn’t necessarily warrant much summation here (health concerns, litter, public image, etc.), the cries to keep smoking alive in Boulder are far more stratified. There have been concerns detailed in the Boulder Gazette that asking employees of local restaurants not to smoke on breaks would be detrimental to the restaurant industry. As of yet, there seems to be no hard data to support this claim, though. The same can be said of the theater district, where people argue that smoking is an ingrained and necessary part of keeping the culture alive. In speaking with the Daily Camera, councilman Andrew Shoemaker summated this thought and the argument against it.

“I’m concerned about displacement, but I’m also concerned about the economic vitality of the entertainment industry,” said Shoemaker.

Potential insight
While it cannot be definitively proven that banning smoking would damage the restaurant industry, it might be beneficial to conduct a study exploring how many smokers would cease to eat out or decrease their dining out if they weren’t allowed to smoke downtown.