After nearly five months of wrangling between anti-smoking supporters and cigar rights promoters, with substantial help from the Cigar Rights of America grass-roots advocacy group, the three-member committee voted unanimously to adopt a compromise motion on a modest extension of the City’s existing anti-smoking policy:
Smoking will be banned in outdoor dining areas, with the following exemptions:From this point, the City Attorney’s Office must now draft the actual language of an ordinance, which will then go to the full City Council for approval, which is essentially assured.
(1) The new smoking policy exempts existing outdoor areas of establishments/businesses that operate as bars, nightclubs or lounges.
(2) The new policy exempts cigar shops that operate under current City planning and zoning regulations.
(3) The new policy exempts restaurants with an outdoor dining area that allows smoking when the establishment moves to a “club,” “lounge,” “bar” or “nightclub” experience and only when entry is age restricted (exemption occurs when the alcohol age restriction or “carding” begins).
To clarify, the ENTIRE establishment, not just the bar area or outdoor dining area, will be age restricted.
(4) All private events (events that are ticketed such as fundraising events, private parties) are exempt from the new policy.
(5) There will be a six-month education and warning period after final Council vote.
The back story on this compromise language demonstrated the power of showing up to protest, no matter how long the odds. There’s little doubt that when Councilman Grieg Smith made a motion to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas last July, it was expected to roll through without even a hiccup in committee. But a single protester against the ban in the first committee hearing led to a meeting of interested parties and then the process slowed down as both sides began meeting with individual Council members and their policy deputies.
The hero in this story, from the standpoint of trying to create good public policy, has to be Arts, Parks, Health & Aging Committee chair Tom LaBonge (4th District). He was the one who insisted on having additional meetings on the potential economic impact of such a ban and made sure that both sides were not simply heard, but had meaningful opportunities to make their case not simply in public hearings, but in private meetings where the real discussion is held.
In the end, Smith’s staff hammered out the final agreement, meeting with each advocacy group to obtain a consensus that both sides could live with this language. There is a significant opportunity for cigar advocates in other communities to build on this development in Los Angeles in the future; we’ll have a fuller analysis of the policy impact of Wednesday’s vote tomorrow.