Restaurateurs Say Business Lost Over New Ordinance
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Some local restaurateurs complain they have lost more than half their patrons in the month since smoking was banned, but the mayor says any notion of amending the ordinance is wishful thinking.
″I think the days of public smoking are over,″ said Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury.
The Beverly Hills ordinance, which took effect April 3, bans smoking in stores, at public meetings and in restaurants, except those in hotels. Smoking is permitted in restaurant bars.
″No matter which way we analyze the figures, we’re seeing drops over the comparable periods in the prior years, and I think that goes for everyone,″ said David Zwaaf, co-owner of the Rangoon Racquet Club and a director of the 61-member Beverly Hills Restaurant Association.
The association has sued the city, claiming that the ordinance, by exempting hotels, violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Most association members report declines in income of 10 percent to 30 percent, and a few have seen drops as high as 60 percent, Zwaaf said.
Malcolm Lee, a computer company executive and a smoker, said he doesn’t entertain customers in Beverly Hills restaurants anymore. ″I can’t tell my clients they can’t smoke,″ he said.
″We miss them,″ Lee said of his former haunts, but added: ″We can’t go back there anymore.″
The mayor said the city may pay for a public relations campaign to draw patrons back to city restaurants, but that the April decline may have stemmed from the Easter and Passover holidays and income tax deadline.
″I expect that business will restore itself to normal,″ he said. ″In fact, I think that it will be even better than it was before.″
Patricio Flores, a waiter at Jocopo’s pizzeria in Beverly Hills, said some customers smoke anyway. But in some establishments, customers have called the police on other patrons.
″Of course you end up having to be a mediator,″ Zwaaf said. ″It’s really ludicrous.″
Police have issued one citation for unauthorized smoking since the law went into effect, said police Lt. Bill Hunt.
The department has received a few calls about violators from non-smokers, but by the time officers arrive the offenders usually have left, he said.
Hunt said the department has no specific budget for no-smoking enforcement and is not giving priority to enforcing the ordinance. ″The spirit of this thing is for voluntary compliance,″ he said.
Many are happy to comply and happier to eat in Beverly Hills under the smoking ban.
″I hated when people’s germs would come floating down and the smoke would get in your food,″ said Helen Stansbury, the mayor’s wife. ″We eat in Beverly Hills more often now. It’s really nice to have it (smoke) completely gone.″
Wolfgang Grahl, banquet manager at Jimmy’s Restaurant, just inside the Los Angeles city limits near Beverly Hills, said business has increased in the past month. But he expects passage of a no-smoking ordinance in Los Angeles.
A proposal that may come before the Los Angeles City Council in a month would would require restaurants with 50 seats or more to set aside half as a non-smoking section.
Such an ordinance, once protested in Beverly Hills before the stricter one was passed, has won favor among Los Angeles restaurant owners as more sensible than an all-out ban.