Littleton City Council just said no to nicotine on Nov. 3, narrowly passing restrictions on smoking downtown.
"I just don't see a place for smokers on Main Street," said Councilmember Debbie Brinkman before joining Mayor Phil Cernanec and Councilmembers Bill Hopping and Bruce Stahlman in voting for the ordinance.
Starting Jan. 1 of next year, smokers will basically be restricted to public alleys as well as rooftop and rear patios and private parking lots where the property owners allow it. It includes virtually all things smokable, in addition to electronic cigarettes and pipes, plus chewing tobacco.
The ban governs only the area bounded by Rio Grande Street, Santa Fe Drive, Alamo Avenue and Powers Avenue. Private residences and automobiles are excluded, as are private businesses not open to the public with no more than three employees.
Several operators of downtown's bars and restaurants have expressed dismay about the ban, calling it discriminatory.
"Passing this bill would be devastating to our business, as this law will drive business away from downtown Littleton and toward other bars and restaurants down Santa Fe and to Aspen Grove," said Scott Woods, general manager of The Tavern. "If we're really being honest, this proposed law is really an attack on bars and restaurants on Main Street."
Others wonder about safety issues and enforcement.
"When you start telling people what they can and cannot do, especially outside, people get defensive," said Keven Kinaschuk, owner of McKinner's Pizza Bar. "So who will enforce this? To me it looks like the business owners will be caught in the middle. ... I guarantee there will be confrontations between smokers and nonsmokers. On the surface it seems like a good thing to do, but the reality is, it is going to do more harm than good to our downtown."
The councilmembers who voted against the ban - Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Beckman, Peggy Cole and Jerry Valdes - shared some of those concerns and wondered about the necessity of passing a law that's more strict than what already exists. The Colorado Clean Air Act was enacted in 2006, restricting smoking to at least 15 feet away from the main entrance of an open business. Because of that, there are already very few places on Main Street where smoking is legal, but it's not proactively enforced.
"Before passing another law, let's work with the one we have," said Beckman.
City Manager Michael Penny agreed that it's difficult to enforce, and said the police only respond when there's a complaint. But he called the move a values statement.
"It's a statement about our expectations for downtown," he said. "There has been a shift of the culture. There are very few places where you can still smoke in a public area."