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Update: Downtown Smoking Ban Approved by Concord City Council

Updated at 10 a.m.: Smoking in public areas in a 17-block radius around Todos Santos Plaza will soon be illegal.

The Concord City Council voted Tuesday to ban smoking in areas accessible to the general public within a 17-block radius of Todos Santos Plaza.

Those caught smoking in general public access spaces within the area known as "Parking Assessment District No. 60," can soon expect to be cited for a finable infraction, should they be caught.

The ban comes two years after downtown business and property owners complained of the nuisance caused by cigarette-smoke.

A total of around 150 people attended the Tuesday night meeting where a score of speakers voiced both support and opposition of the ban.

"We've been asked by our patrons over and over to shut the door," said Linda Swartz, Cuba Linda's executive chef and owner. "... that drives away business. We look like we're closed; we look unwelcoming. That hurts me financially."

Swartz said she "would love" to place an outside dining area in front of the four-month old restaurant, but can't, since "... nobody will sit there with all the smoke coming in their face ..."

While a majority of speakers were in support of the ban, those opposing made sure to voice concerns:

"There's bigger things to worry about, Mayor ..." said Landon Hathaway, a bar tender at Vinnie's Bar & Grill. "We've been chasing off the same bums for the last seven years, drinking beers ... in front of the bar and behind the bar ... and now you guys are chasing off paying customers who are trying to smoke a cigarette? ..."

Hathaway said he agrees with current laws that regulate smoking inside, but banning smoking in front of the bar would not only drive away business, but lead to other potential issues.

In addressing Concord resident Babs Gomez's concern of what kind of burden the smoking ban would place on Concord Police, Chief Guy Swanger explained he expects the public to help.

"The best way to probably enforce it would begin with education," said Swanger.

The Chief said he has noticed business owners addressing smoking outside of their businesses and "proactive work" by waiters, waitresses and coffee shop workers that will pave the way towards getting the public to comply with the ordinance. 

A warning process would take place after that, Swanger explained, but "people would eventually get to self-police."

As far as civil disobedience goes, Swanger said there are already officers responsible for patrolling the downtown area who would issue citations.

The initial fine would cost up to $100, while a second would cost no more than $200; each additional fine could cost up to $500, according to the unanimously approved ordinance.

The council's ban comes in addition to a 2009 smoking ban that made it illegal to smoke in the city's parks, trails and open spaces.

The ban does not impact private areas the general public has no access to.

Private residences, vehicles and designated smoking areas that prevent second-hand smoke from reaching the public will be exempt from the ban.

connie September 29, 2011 at 02:20 PM
I rather do enjoy being able to breathe. I'm much more likely to sit down in a place that is free of smoke and will not deal with smoke when I dine under any conditions.
BCory October 04, 2011 at 03:07 AM
The new Cuban restaurant chose a location next to a long established Concord bar. I can't beleive that they could not predict that some of the bar crowd would step out for a smoke. What a bunch of B. S. I own my own home and live 2 blocks from Todos Santos. My wife and I are downtown all the time. We are tired of street bums asking for money. We are tired of seeing the same bums so intoxicated they deficate themselves and lay in the sidewalk. We are tired of having to avoid over grown tree branches along the sidewalks. Why can't the city make the owners responsible to keep things trimmed. Ask the polce about the pan handlers downtown. I have. The police have stated that several of the repeat pan handlers are breaking into foreclosed homes for temporary housing. They are criminals if this is true. Concord's officials should make a positive change in our city by exercising laws that already exist. Leave the law abiding citizens alone. My home was broken into over the labor Day holiday. I was told to file the stolen property report online. Do the police have time to inforce a anti smoking law? I Don't think so!
Randy blumberg February 02, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I'm glad that concord banned smoking I'm tried of walking through a bunch of smoke. People that smoke have no regards for the rest of us. And now there are more that don't smoke. Thanks again
Eddie Peabody March 05, 2012 at 05:48 AM
^ People that smoke have no regard for the rest of us? That's a heinously offensive comment and you sir have no regard for the rest of us. How many are ex-smokers you think? Thanks for making life in general miserable Concord.
Kathleen February 05, 2013 at 12:52 AM
This law only allows for people to get on their high horse to act as police officers. I make sure that I do not impose on anothers right to clean air and not to inhale my cigarette smoke and therefore, I would appreciate that my rights not be violated as mine is still legal but these days it is looked at that pot is legal and cigarettes are not. Welcome to radical, yuppies taking away rights.

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