Reaction mixed to smoking ban

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

Reaction by local business owners was mixed to Gov. Bill Richardson’s signing into law a statewide ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, stores and other workplaces.

El Rancho Restaurant owner Rueben Garcia said he was OK with the ban. Even though the restaurant has a designated smoking section, it is not always a good thing for customers, he said. Sometimes non-smokers have to sit in the smoking section when other sections are full, Garcia said.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing, not only for us, but for our customers and employees,” Garcia said.

On the other side of the spectrum are officials from Cattle Baron and Goober McCool’s.

Cattle Baron General Manager Nick Bara said the ban will affect the lounge area of the restaurant, which is the only designated smoking section for the restaurant, he said.

“I think we would lose business,” Bara said.

Though some of his customers are in agreement with the ban, he expressed concern many will be agitated over the decision.

Goober McCool’s bar manager Andrew Roybal said many of the establishment’s customers smoke heavily while on the premises. Smoke purification filters are already in place to help control the smoke for non-smoking customers, he said.

Roybal believes many of his customers will be angry over the smoking ban and sales in the bar may drop off because of it, Roybal said.

“It will be something that will be settled into slowly,” Roybal said.

Thirteen New Mexico communities, including Santa Fe and
Albuquerque, have imposed smoking bans. The new law would allow cities and counties to have stronger ordinances, but not weaker ones.

The prohibition applies to any indoor workplaces or public places, including buses, taxis and other public transportation. Smoking would be allowed outside, but not near doors or windows.

There are exceptions to the prohibition. Among them: Retail tobacco stores, cigar bars, casinos, state-licensed gambling facilities, private clubs, smoking-permitted hotel and motel rooms, and one-person offices not generally open to the public.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.