Galveston smoking ban passes

July 24, 2009 4:36:44 PM PDT
Galveston is joining the ranks of Texas cities where smoking is banned in bars, restaurants and other public buildings. Not everyone is happy about the ordinance approved Thursday, especially as the island tries to recover from Hurricane Ike. Business owners said they knew this smoking ban was coming, but what they said came as a surprise was the final version which could hurt their wallets.

It's been a rough ten months for Charles Head and his cigar shop.

"It's been a while trying to come back, but we're gonna make it," said Head, who owns the Havana Alley Cigar Shop.

He'll be ready to reopen September 1, but with the new smoking ban taking effect January 1, 2010, he doesn't see the point.

"It'll put us out of business. We'll have to relocate to League City or somewhere," said Head.

What's worse is that Head says the ban that passed in city council wasn't the one he'd negotiated with his elected leaders, which would have exempted private clubs like his and allow smoking inside.

"We thought we had a done deal, but it wasn't the case," Head said.

The last minute changes also expanded the outdoor ban from five feet outside a building's entrance to 15 feet.

"Fifteen feet away from my front door is the street. So people who want to smoke are going to have to go stand out in the street," said restaurant owner Danny Hart.

Hart runs three bars and restaurants on the island.

"I don't know what it's going to do to business. It's the strictest smoking laws in the state of Texas now," said Hart.

Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas was one of the yes votes on Thursday.

"We had hoped to be able to allow smoking to have exceptions to this ban, but the council, the hotel industry, as well as the chamber of commerce, agreed to support the ban as long as it was across the board, and there were no exceptions," said Mayor Thomas.

However, it's not just businesses that don't like the restrictions. Smokers don't either.

"If people don't want to be in a place where there's smoking, then they shouldn't go in," said smoker Mitchell Reese.

As for Charles Head, he is worried his potential customers won't even have that choice. He's hoping between now and January when the ban is set to take effect, he can work out some sort of deal with the City of Galveston.

Mayor Thomas reminds us that the vast majority of the people on the island are in support of the smoking ban, but she does feel for the businesses that aren't.

This year Texas lawmakers tried again to pass a statewide smoking ban, but it failed.

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