CITY WIDE — As Los Angeles and West Hollywood consider banning smoking on restaurant patios — a step Santa Monica took three years ago — opponents of the new rules have argued additional restrictions could hurt businesses.
But, those fears are unfounded, said Santa Monica proprietors who have dealt with one of the toughest smoking bans in the region since 2006.
While some restaurant and bar managers said the ban caused a dip in business when it first took effect, they agreed the idea of non-smoking patios at bars and restaurants has become so ingrained customers rarely complain.
“Everybody’s used to it now. Now it’s normal for people not to smoke on the patio,” said Stephanie Dyer, manager at World Cafe on Main Street.
She said it’s much more common for people to complain about the California public health code that bars pet dogs from areas where food is served. Since the long-standing rule started being enforced at World Cafe, regulars who used to sit on the patio with their pets have been chased away.
“I get the dog thing every day. The smoking thing — nobody even talks about that anymore,” Dyer said.
Mike Mininsy, general manager of another restaurant with a large patio, El Cholo on Wilshire Boulevard, said he agrees the smoking ban hasn’t hurt business. He said in some ways the ban has even helped.
“I think more people sit outside just because you can’t” smoke cigarettes there, he said. “I don’t think it’s hurt business at all. I think people are just used to it.”
The bans proposed in Los Angeles and West Hollywood could differ from Santa Monica’s ban. In L.A., for example, the proposal would exempt bars with outdoor areas and other over-18 establishments, whereas the patio ban applies to all businesses in Santa Monica. West Hollywood’s ban is still being formulated, but discussion so far has focused on crafting a ban that would apply to bars and clubs.
A slew of bar owners and business advocates spoke out against West Hollywood’s proposal at a council meeting last month before the body voted 4 to 1 to move ahead with drafting a ban.
In Santa Monica, some bar managers said while the ban hasn’t hurt their businesses, an outdoor smoking ban can still have a negative effect on some types of bars and clubs, especially those with large outdoor areas.
At Finn McCools on Main Street, manager Eugene Ganley said the ban hasn’t been a big factor for his customers, who are used to going onto the street to smoke because the bar doesn’t have a patio.
“If we had [a patio] it would severely impact us,” he said of the ban.
And Jeff Enden, general manager of the Circle Bar, said, “If we had an outdoor area then I would imagine that [the ban] would be a huge impact.”