OCEANSIDE — Bar and restaurant patio smoking will remain at the discretion of business owners, after the ordinance to ban patio smoking did not receive a motion for City Council to vote on it June 26.
Mayor Jim Wood and Councilmen Jack Feller and Gary Felien said they would not support the smoking ban.
Wood said he objected to how the ordinance was worded. The proposed ordinance prohibited smoking on patios adjacent to public streets and sidewalks, but allowed smoking on second floor and private property patios.
Wood said these rules set up an unfair advantage for some businesses and could lead to a lawsuit against the city.
“My concern is the revision seemed to be a conflict,” Wood said.
“I am not in favor of smoking,” he added.
Feller said he changed his mind about the smoking ban that he voted yes on June 5. He said he opposed the ban’s infringement on private property rights and business owners’ freedom of choice.
“The more I think about it, the more I think we’re heading down the road towards socialism,” Feller said. “I’ve completely reversed my course. I don’t want to be heading down that path.”
Felien also changed his mind about supporting the smoking ban. He said, in light of public comments, he was concerned that ordinance revisions reached at the previous council meeting did not satisfy everyone.
“We tried to craft a compromise,” Felien said. “A compromise requires wide support. It looks like we’re back to square one.”
Most speakers on the item that night were Oceanside bar and restaurant owners. Among their concerns were the unfair business advantages of competitors with second floor patios, and confusion about whether smoking could continue at their establishment under the proposed ordinance.
“I want to make my business thrive,” Kimberly Marrs, owner of Tremont Street Bar and Grill, said. “After Carlsbad passed its ban on smoking a lot of business came to Oceanside. Smoking is not an illegal activity. Let us make the call, especially coming out of an economic downfall.”
The proposed ordinance also listed the facts that secondhand smoke is responsible for 3,000 deaths from lung cancer, 46,000 deaths from heart disease, and causes pneumonia and bronchitis in 300,000 children in the United States each year. There was no discussion on health risks by speakers or City Council.
Bar and restaurant owners who spoke, agreed that it should be the business owner’s decision to allow patio smoking at their establishment. Owners who had smoking patios said they constructed them at their customers’ requests.
“It’s about customer service,” Joe Jeffery, owner of Junkyard Grill & Sports Bar, said. “I don’t smoke. I built an area to smoke to give people what they were asking for. Let business owners make that decision.”
Smokers also addressed City Council and said they enjoyed sitting down at a restaurant patio for a drink, smoke and burger, especially with smoking outlawed on Oceanside parks and beaches.
Wood said the item would likely come back to council at a future date.