Less than three weeks after the smoking ban went into place, the Steamboat Springs City Council will look at amending it.
At tonight's meeting, the council will be asked to approve an amendment allowing smoking in permitted outdoor areas in restaurants and bars.
On May 17, the council passed an ordinance banning all smoking in restaurants, bars, offices, outdoor amphitheaters and workplaces. The ordinance went into effect July 1.
In June, restaurant and bar owners asked the council to consider a special permit that would allow restaurants to cordon off outdoor areas for smoking.
The amendment the council will see tonight allows smoking in designated outdoor areas. Designated areas cannot be greater than 25 percent of total outdoor seating areas and must be 10 feet away from restaurant entrances.
The amendment also states that outdoor smoking areas cannot be located in places where any patrons must pass through to enter or leave the establishments or go to bathrooms.
The designated areas would be within the establishments' liquor license boundaries, where smokers could be served.
As proposed in the amendment, the city clerk's office would issue the special permits. The permits would be tied to the restaurants' or bars' liquor licenses, City Clerk Julie Jordan said.
Since June, the city has received more than 30 letters in support of the city's smoking ban, Jordan said. Many of those letters are from people who live outside of Steamboat and visit the city. They urged the council to keep the ordinance as is and not weaken it.
One of the issues with the amendment, Jordan said, is that waiters and waitresses still will have to walk through smoky areas to serve customers.
"That is where the ordinance stemmed from, wanting to protect the employees. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could put in the ordinance to protect employees. Employees still have to serve in smoking areas," Jordan said.
Letters also expressed concern that the smoke could travel into nonsmoking areas. The ordinance does not have any requirements for mitigating smoke in the designated areas.
SmokeFree Steamboat Coal--ition, a group that petitioned City Council to pass the nonsmoking ordinance, wrote a letter to the council urging them to not pass the amendment.
"We urge you to uphold your commitment to protect the health of this community. Please stand strong on this important public health issue. Maintain the integrity of the new ordinance and give it a chance to work as is before entertaining any proposed amendments," the letter reads.
At the council's June meeting, Slopeside Grill owner Chris Corna said restaurants in the mountain area rely heavily on business from people who smoke later in the evening. Not allowing smoking anywhere and requiring customers to smoke 10 feet away from their establishments will hurt business, he told the council.
The council also was presented with a petition that more than 20 restaurant owners or managers signed stating they would be in support of an amendment allowing outdoor smoking areas.
The amendment also will address smaller housekeeping items, such as taking out language in the ordinance requiring all places of "public accommodation" to have no-smoking signs posted.