3 min

Smoke-free gay bars

Smoking ban gets mixed reviews

Credit: Tamara Letkeman photo

Vancouver’s new bylaw telling smokers to butt out on bar and restaurant patios is prompting mixed reactions from bar owners and patrons at some of Davie Village’s popular gay hangouts.

The bylaw, passed Sep 20, bans smoking in indoor smoking rooms, bus shelters and taxis, on patios and within six metres of public doorways, windows and air intakes. For the moment, hookah bars and cigar stores are exempt, but will come under scrutiny in the spring when the province releases its updated Public Health Act. There will also be a six-month grace period where fines for non-compliance —which will range from $100 to $2,000 —will not be handed out, giving bar and restaurant owners the chance to voice any concerns to city council.

At the PumpJack Pub, co-owner Steve Bauer says the bylaw could affect business at his bar, which has an indoor smoking area.

“I honestly don’t know,” Bauer says. “We’ll have to wait and see.

“As long as everyone is on a level playing field, it should be fine,” he continues, adding: “If that’s what Vancouver wants, we respect that.”

A few blocks east at the Fountainhead Pub, whose popular patio faces the street, there is little concern from management over the new bylaw.

“I’m fine with it either way,” said Derek White, general manager. “I can understand both sides of it.”

White says he isn’t worried about losing customers because of the ban.

“I remember in the beginning when I was working at Numbers [when the indoor smoking ban came into effect]. A lot of people said they weren’t going to come out anymore, but they came around.”

Smokers enjoying the Fountainhead’s patio on a recent sunny Saturday offered a mixed bag of opinions on the ban.

Wayne Redmond, a Fountainhead regular, says the new bylaw doesn’t bother him at all.

“I spent a lot of time in Toronto, and it’s the same thing,” he says. “When you have to go elsewhere [to smoke], you get accustomed to it.”

Redmond’s companion, Marty Stevens, originally from Calgary, says he’s also used to anti-smoking bylaws, but notes the six-metre stipulation will be a headache.

“You’re always going to be within six metres of any business unless you go stand in the alley,” Stevens points out.

Both Redmond and Stevens say they are trying to kick the habit.

Kevin Mosley, another frequent customer at the Fountainhead, who describes himself as “not a heavy smoker,” says he thinks the ban is generally good.

“I understand people don’t want cigarette smoke blown into their faces while eating,” Mosley says. “People survived no smoking indoors, so they’ll survive this too.”

But over at the Oasis Pub, both smoking and non-smoking patrons sitting on the patio are not so complacent about the ban.

“They have their space, we have our space,” says Kelly Rosie, a smoker. “We’re trying to be as accommodating as possible. Most people understand that patios allow smoking —they already pushed us outdoors.”

“There is this great big outdoor open space where people should have the freedom to choose to do what they want to do,” Rosie continues.

Rosie’s companion, a non-smoker who refused to give his name, says he thinks the ban is ludicrous, especially the rule about not lighting up within six metres of doorways or windows.

“What are people going to do,” he quips. “Carry around a six-metre pole?”

Incidentally, by press time Rosie will have moved back to his hometown of Calgary, whose anti-smoking bylaw allows restaurants and bars to have designated smoking areas inside, but not outside.

The motion to go smoke-free on patios and other outdoor areas was initially introduced by Councillor Tim Stevenson, who says the city has been receiving pressure from health organizations, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and individuals who “would like to go on a patio and not be inundated with secondhand smoke.”

“A lot of businesses have told me they really welcome this,” says Stevenson, who is gay. “I think it will be a boon for restaurants and bars.”

Stevenson says the bylaw will come into effect in early October.

A recent study suggests gay men in Canadian cities smoke more than their straight counterparts.

The Journal of Urban Health, the periodical of the New York Academy of Medicine, published findings last year that revealed gay men living in urban areas of British Columbia are twice as likely to smoke as heterosexual men. Three hundred and fifty men in BC were surveyed for the study.