BEVERLY HILLS—It’s been three years since Beverly Hills expanded its existing smoking bans to restrict smokers from lighting up within five feet of a designated dining area.

Some restaurant owners opposed the ban claiming they would lose part of their customer base who smoked. Those in favor of the ordinance believed that a smoke-free environment would actually increase the number of diners and would broaden the demographics to include children, elderly and non-smokers.

In order to get the verdict on the subject, Canyon News spoke to Peter Garland, owner of Porta Via, a bistro and bar located on Canyon Drive. “The ban has not affected business negatively. If anything, it had a positive effect. Beverly Hills is a very health conscious city. Diners appreciate the smoke-free environment.”

When asked what his first impression of the ban had been, Garland admitted, “Originally, when I heard they were discussing the ban, my first thought was that we work in hospitality” we don’t like to tell someone ‘no.’ After I gave it greater thought, I realized it was what people wanted. In this community, it seemed like a natural step.”

Daniel Cartagena, assistant to the city manager and project manager at City of Beverly Hills, informed Canyon News, “Generally speaking, since its passage, the ordinance has been embraced by Beverly Hills’ hospitality industry, both its restaurants and hotels, and these businesses deserve the credit of the program’s success.”

In regards to the overall feedback of the restaurant industry, Cartagena stated, “In a survey to all restaurant and hotels offering open air dining in which the City received an 18 percent response, only four businesses claimed to have lost business due to the ordinance.”

Smoking bans have been a favorite topic for comedians, some claiming to have been asked by a waitress to put out their cigarette in the outdoor dining area, only to step outside the gate a few feet away and light up. When asked about the five feet rule, Cartagena reasoned, “Sidewalks throughout Beverly Hills vary in width. They can measure up to 11 feet to 19 feet wide. There are open-air dining permits let to restaurants with sidewalks 11 feet wide. Because open-air dining areas protrude into the sidewalk, we did not want to create a radius that would require a person to stand in the street or move to the front of an adjacent building to comply with the ordinance [sic].”

When asked how smoking patrons handled the ban, Garland stated, “Smokers are very respectful. They will walk down the street a little to smoke.” He added, “There are more non-smokers. There have only been about half a dozen times were we’ve had to remind diners not to smoke.”

Overall, Cartagena is pleased with the outcome of the Fresh Air Dining Program. “The ordinance has resulted in a win-win for the City and its businesses. The City was able to promote an ordinance that advances protections to the public’s health and opens up outdoor dining to the non-smoker. For businesses, they experience the benefits of a wider-range of customers patronizing their outdoor dining, staying longer and spending more per ticket.”