Local restaurants are bracing for the new citywide ordinance banning public indoor smoking that goes into effect on New Year’s Day. Owners hope customers understand as they work to provide outdoor smoking areas.
The ordinance, passed by Waco City Council on June 21, makes it illegal to smoke in bars, restaurants and other public spaces, but reduces the number of feet a smoker must be from a doorway to light up. People may smoke 15 feet from a doorway instead of 20, enabling several restaurants to provide outdoor smoking areas.
Sammy Citrano, owner of George’s Restaurant, Bar & Catering, said his Hewitt Drive location already has an outside patio, but he added 500 square feet to his deck at the Speight Avenue restaurant so smokers could sit outside.
Moving the smoking section outside will provide more seating for the lunch crowd who tend to be in a hurry, Citrano said, but he’s unsure if it will be enough. A lot of regular customers come to George’s because they can smoke inside, he said.
“I would hope that people who don’t smoke will come out and try our food and our service,” he said. “And we hope that people who have been accustomed to smoking in the designated smoking areas would enjoy the outdoor space we’ve provided.”
Mary Duty, co-owner of Poppa Rollo’s Pizza, said she already has ordered a gazebo that will be installed at the Valley Mills Drive location, between the main building and its event building out back.
Duty said she considers the smoking ban to be government overreaching into private businesses, but will work to accommodate her customers regardless.
“When are they going to say pepperoni is a bad idea?” she said. “For a lot of us, it seems like a slippery slope.”
Dr. Bradford Holland, a physician with Waco Ear, Nose and Throat and an advocate for the smoking ordinance, said he’s comfortable with the government prohibiting inside smoking because it protects people who don’t smoke from the effects of those who do.
“We are protecting the air of people who have no intention of smoking,” he said. “Because we know that you can’t clean the air in a smoking or nonsmoking restaurant . . . with that kind of exposure, I think it justifies this intervention.”