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Proposed Smoking Ordinance Stirs Controversy in Beverly Hills

February 13, 1987

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ There’s a cloud of controversy billowing in this star-studded community where civic leaders want to ban smoking in schools, taxis, theaters, restrooms and all restaurants, including LaScala, Jacopo’s and The Bistro.

″We are acting as protectors of the public,″ said Ben Stansbury, a veteran of the five-member City Council, which unanimously supports the ordinance. ″I think we are going to change the eating experience for the better. I think it’s something even smokers will accept.″

A lunchtime sampling of diners in some of those eateries showed Stansbury may be looking through a smokescreen, though.

″I will not be told what to do,″ said Barbara Cooper, dining at La Famiglia with her husband, Jackie. ″This law is discriminatory, ridiculous, and I do not think it ever will pass.″

″Has Beverly Hills become a nation? Are we in the Communist bloc?″ asked Malcolm Lee, a businessman and smoker who was having cocktails at the Rangoon Racquet Club. ″I will move my offices out of this city if they pass this thing. I will no longer eat here.″

″In 12 or 13 years, we have never had a complaint about smoking. If we did, we could switch tables, we could accommodate,″ added Rangoon’s owner, Manny Zwaaf.

″But a total ban - maybe 25 percent of our customers come from England, New Zealand, New York; they smoke,″ said Zwaaf. ″Am I to be a policeman, to tell people after an expensive meal to put out that cigarette that goes so well with their coffee? They will go to Los Angeles.″

Owners at La Scala, La Famiglia and The Bistro labeled the ban unfair, unnecessary and highly unprofitable. Patrons called it unthinkable.

Mayor Charlotte Spadaro said she believes the ban will be approved. If it is, Beverly Hills will become only the second city in the country to prohibit all smoking in restaurants. Aspen, Colo., already has a ban on its books.

Ms. Spadaro pointed out that an earlier ordinance which would have established designated non-smoking areas in restaurants was voted down by restaurateurs who said they could not redesign their dining rooms to comply.

″Why, I think it’s lovely, simply peachy,″ said Leonore Gershwin, widow of Ira Gershwin, arriving at Nate-N-Al’s delicatessen.

Writer Patsy Klein, on her way into The Bistro, said: ″You would think, in Beverly Hills, where everyone is always jogging and tucking and health conscious, people would be happy to comply with the law.″

The first City Council vote on the measure is scheduled Tuesday. Another vote is scheduled two weeks later. If approved, it would take effect 30 days after the second vote. Violation of the law would be a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine.

″Why it’s insane. This city is insane,″ said Joseph Fredman, visiting from Philadelphia. ″Am I still in the U.S.A.?″

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