OCEANSIDE — The City Council approved the introduction of an ordinance to ban smoking on outdoor restaurant and bar dining patios in a 3-2 vote on March 18.
While the majority of City Council members and speakers said the ordinance that guards against secondhand smoke is the right things to do, a handful of restaurant/bar owners spoke against the smoking ban.
Following the meeting Tom Ratowski, co-owner of The Draft Restaurant & Sports Bar, said he went through hoops to build a patio to city specifications, which is used by patrons who want to smoke.
“We don’t serve food on the patio,” Ratowski said. “We’ve been proactive from the beginning. Now they’re puling it out from under us.”
Ratowski and Derek Mascia have co-owned the restaurant/bar for seven years.
Ratowski said the ban should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
During the meeting, Joe Jeffery, owner of Junkyard Grill & Sports Bar, requested that existing restaurant/bar smoking patios be grandfathered in. He also built a patio specifically for patrons to have a place to step away from diners and light up.
Councilmen Jerry Kern and Jack Feller sided with business owners and voted against the ordinance, saying it should be an owner’s right to run their restaurant or bar as they see fit.
“It’s government overreach,” Kern said. “(People will soon be saying) let’s go after fires on the beach, and people smoking in their own home.”
Mayor Jim Wood pointed out that 90 percent of Californians do not smoke, but are subject to secondhand smoke if it is allowed on restaurant patios.
Speakers in support of the ordinance said restaurant workers, children and elderly are particularly vulnerable to secondhand smoke.
Oceanside resident Jimmy Figueroa said it was frustrating encountering fellow diners who were smoking while his wife was pregnant.
“These regulations are important for the health, safety and welfare of people,” Joe Kellejian, American Lung Association board member and former Solana Beach councilman, said.
Earlier city council discussions in 2013 did not pass restaurant patio smoking restrictions.
Oceanside will now join Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, National City, Chula Vista and El Cajon that have similar bans.
The Oceanside ordinance spells out known health hazards of secondhand smoke, which include lung cancer, heart disease, and birth defects.
The ordinance prohibits smoking within 20 feet of a restaurant patio, and requires owners to post no smoking signs.
Penalties for smokers are a $100 fine for the first offense, $200 fine for the second infraction, and $500 fine for the third.
The ordinance will return to council for final approval at an upcoming meeting.