Bylaw may force Max’s to “butt out"

"Smoking or non?" is a question you might not be asked anymore when dining out if a proposed Calgary bylaw is passed.

Last Tuesday, the aldermanic committee and Mayor Al Duerr agreed to begin drafting a bylaw that would ban smoking in Calgary restaurants and other public places where children are permitted.

According to Marlies van Dijk, co-chairwoman of the Calgary Tobacco Reduction Action Coalition, the decision reflects the community’s current stance on the issue.

"In a random poll of 626 Calgary-area residents, we found 88 per cent of the respondents wanted to see restrictions that would protect children from second-hand smoke," said van Dijk. "I think our by-laws should reflect that."

Not everyone in the community favours the possible ban. Restaurateurs in Calgary are already worried about the implications it would have on their business. Max’s Café General Manager Greg Stephenson predicts that it will hurt business, at least in the short term.

"The first six months to a year would be tough for sure," he said, but added that many people avoid Max’s due to its smoky environment. "It’s tough to say how much business would be aff ected in the long term because although we might lose some smoking customers, we might gain some customers who like the smoke-free environment."

Whether or not Max’s Café–the only spot on campus where students are allowed to smoke indoors–has to abide by the bylaw, will depend on how the Students’ Union decides to run the establishment.

"If the bylaw passed, we would have to decide between being a restaurant and being a bar," said SU Vice-president External Duncan Wojtaszek. "Currently, we run as a restaurant during the daytime and as a bar at nights."

Wojatszek pointed out that if Max’s operated strictly as a bar, it would not have to ban smoking. Doing so would keep their smoking customers happy, although they would lose many of their customers who are under 18.

"It is a difficult decision and it’s not one the executive could make alone," said Wojtaszek. "The SLC and Max’s staff would also have to be consulted."

Some argue the bylaw will infringe on people’s freedom of choice.

"Smoking is not an illegal activity and it is an individual’s choice," said U of C student and avid smoker Keith Ferguson. "Parents are responsible for their children’s exposure to smoking. It’s not the responsibility of the government and businesses."

"If the idea is to protect the kids, then the parents should not bring them into smoking environments in the first place," added fellow smoker Karen Winchester.
"Restaurants should not be penalized for bad parenting."

City council will vote on the bylaw as early as this summer.

"We’re very optimistic that the bylaw will pass, especially if it goes to a referendum," said van Dijk. "We hear it from the community all the time that this is what they want." She added that, according to Health Canada 2000 statistics, 70 per cent of the population does not smoke.

"Why is that not reflected in our public spaces?" asked van Dijk.

Leave a comment