The Austin Chronicle

What It Means

April 15, 2005, News

The Ballot

"An ordinance repealing Austin's current ordinance relating to smoking in public places and replacing it with a new ordinance that maintains the current prohibition against smoking in most public places, including workplaces, and expands the prohibition against smoking to apply to all bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and billiard parlors, except for restaurants with restricted permits that are renewable through Sept. 1, 2012."

What It Means

The primary change would be to eliminate the current "unrestricted" smoking permit, whereby "stand alone bars" can buy a permit to allow smoking, if they make at least 70% of their revenue from alcohol sales, and don't allow anyone under the age of 18 into the establishment. Some 201 businesses currently hold such permits (see below).

The new ordinance also:

tightens the prohibition on smoking within 15 feet of a door or window, eliminating current exemptions allowing smoking near "non-primary" entrances, and in areas where there isn't 15 feet between the entrance and the adjacent roadway;

repeals the current bowling alley exemption, but keeps an exemption for "bingo facilities operated under the Bingo Enabling Act," if they provide an enclosed, ventilated nonsmoking area, where minors are not allowed;

the final clause regarding "restricted permits" gives a seven-year grandfathering to the 10 or 12 restaurants (oddly, there's some confusion over the number) which have installed designated smoking areas with their own ventilation systems, and no minors allowed.

Who Is Affected?

Somewhere around 201 establishments currently hold "unrestricted" smoking permits that would expire under the new ordinance. Of these, about a third (63) are listed as "live music venues" in the Chronicle listings, including several of the most prominent clubs in town: the 311, Antone's, the Back Room, Beerland, Continental, Elephant Room, Emo's, La Zona Rosa, Hole in the Wall, Lucky Lounge, Saxon Pub, and more.

Of the rest, there are several distinct categories of businesses: Hispanic clubs (23), billiard parlors (12), discos (12), adult entertainment (8), and a comedy club (Cap City). But the bulk of the establishments (81) are what you might call neighborhood bars, ranging from the Crown and Anchor and Poodle Dog Lounge to the Cheers Shot Bar on Sixth Street.

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