Two restaurant representatives have asked the city to create a permitting process that would allow outdoor smoking sections at restaurants and bars.
The request came three weeks after Steamboat Springs City Council passed an ordinance banning all smoking in restaurants, bars, offices, outdoor amphitheaters and workplaces starting July 1.
Tony Dickson, partner and manager of Gondola Pub & Grill, and Chris Corna, owner of Slopeside Grill, asked the council on Tuesday to consider a special permit that would allow restaurants to cordon off an outside area for smoking.
At Tuesday's meeting, Corna said the mountain restaurants and bars rely heavily on customers who smoke later in the evenings. Not allowing smoking anywhere on site and requiring customers to smoke 10 feet from their buildings will hurt business, he said.
"Businesses on the mountain are struggling now. You will make them struggle more if you won't allow smoking," he said.
Very little public comment was given during the second reading of the smoking ordinance.
Dickson and Corna said that was partially because restaurant owners were out of town after the Steamboat Ski Area closed and during the time council members discussed the issue.
Dickson said that the permit would be a compromise to the council's smoking ban and noted that his and Corna's restaurants face particular hardships if the outdoor space around them is nonsmoking.
Gondola Pub & Grill is nonsmoking inside, but patrons can smoke on one of the outside decks. That won't be allowed under the new ordinance, which requires smokers to stay at least 10 feet from the entrance of any smoke-free building.
However, that distance becomes even greater for Dickson's restaurant because Gondola Square is designated as a smoke-free zone. Patrons would have to walk 300 feet away from the restaurant to smoke, Dickson said.
"We just want to give customers an opportunity, if they want, to go outside and have a cigarette, that there is a place for them to do so," Dickson said.
Council President Paul Strong urged the men to have the Steamboat Springs Restaurant Association write a letter supporting that view and then return to the council.
Next week, Dickson said they plan to send a petition to all restaurant owners to see what the consensus is.
Corna and Dickson said the group wants to work with the council on the permit rather than file a petition asking for the ordinance to be taken to the voters.
Under the city charter, residents can file a referendum petition that requires the council to repeal the ordinance or take it to the voters.
The petition must be filed 30 days after the ordinance is adopted, which means the deadline for anything related to the smoking ordinance would be Thursday. It also must be signed by 20 percent of the number of people registered to vote in the last registered election, which would mean more than 1,500 signatures.
Residents also could file for an initiative petition after the 30-day deadline, which would take the question to voters but not send it back to the council.
But the intent is not to repeal the smoking ban, Dickson said.
"That is not what we are trying to do. We don't want to do that," he said. "We want to make an opportunity for outside smoking."
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