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Now about those butts on the sidewalk…

Gay bars grapple with new smoking rules

From now on if you’re smoking at Woody’s, you’d better be on fire.

New provincial legislation banning smoking from almost all indoor spaces including designated smoking rooms (DSRs) and covered patios came into effect at midnight on May 31.

Bar managers are not surprised by the new rules, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it.

“It’s disappointing,” says Woody’s manager Dean Odorico. “I believe the smoke rooms were a good solution. It was working for us; people were happy, no one was in there that didn’t want to be and it worked. The air was clear.”

Woody’s spent $70,000 on its smoking room when the province introduced its original ban on smoking in public places in 2004, which permitted separately ventilated smoking rooms. They tore it down last month.

Hair Of The Dog manager Derek Smith finds the whole thing a little confusing, as well as frustrating for customers. At the pub, smoking will no longer be permitted under the secured awning. But Smith is less sure what the situation is for the five tables under the roll-up awning and all the tables with umbrellas.

“We’ve heard mixed things,” Smith says. “If we have umbrellas up at the table do we have to put them down? I know a lot of our customers are confused as well. The general consensus is frustration among smokers that literally have to get up and walk a foot over to the sidewalk and they can smoke over there.”

Smith says the province could have done more to communicate the rules to bar and restaurant owners.

“I’ve had to listen to the news to get my information,” he says.

Not all bars in the gay village are affected by this new legislation. The Churchmouse And Firkin, for example, doesn’t have a smoking room and their patio awning is retractable. Nevertheless, manager Sandra Liberty doesn’t like the changes one bit.

“If you’re outside, bugger off,” Liberty says. “I can sort of understand inside, that’s fine, but when you’re outside it’s a little bit much. Soon they’ll be cutting off smoking on streets and in parks.”

Staff plan on keeping the awning pulled back so smokers can puff away on their patio, but that may not be a permanent state of affairs.

“After the first rain storm call me and I’ll tell you what the battles are with that,” says Liberty.

Some patrons won’t mind the new rules, concedes Odorico.

“There’s ones who are looking forward to seeing Woody’s as it used to be. There is definitely a better flow in there when there are no smoking rooms.”

As for the patio rules, the confusion about umbrellas may be warranted. The information for bars and restaurants available on the Ministry Of Health Promotion website states in part: “A stand-alone umbrella covering a single table would not be considered a roof. However, if umbrellas are used in such a way so as to serve as a roof, an inspector may view it as such and act accordingly.”

Given the incremental way that antismoking advocates are winning over legislators in Ontario, many feel it is only a matter of time before even open patio smoking is banned.

“We wouldn’t go to the expense of building an outdoor patio on the roof right now because I believe in a couple of years patios will be nonsmoking as well,” Odorico says.

While Odorico at Woody’s finds the new rules disappointing, he understands the antismoking advocates point of view.

“I’m a smoker, but it is a disgusting habit,” he says. “They should ban them outright.”