HUNTINGTON PARK : Smoking Banned in Most Restaurants

With little opposition, Huntington Park became the first Southeast city to outlaw smoking in most restaurants.

At El Lucero, a restaurant near Pacific Boulevard that seats about 15, the reaction to the new ordinance was greeted with mild satisfaction.

"Smoke bothers other people, so if someone wants to smoke, they can go outside," said owner Juan Guerrero, motioning to the empty patio in front of his taqueria.

But Mary Diaz, owner of El Cordial on Saturn Street, a Cuban and Mexican restaurant that seats about 50, fears that less smoking may mean less business. "I prefer to let the customers do what they please," she said.

According to the law, which went into effect July 20, smoking is prohibited in restaurants with 30 seats or fewer. In larger restaurants, 80% of the seats must be nonsmoking.

Anyone not complying will be guilty of an infraction, which means they will be "tapped on the finger," said Mayor Ric Loya.

"Who wants to go out and play tobacco cops?" said Loya, who is a former smoker. "Before passing this ordinance, we asked: 'How can we be fair, yet make a difference on this issue?' "

The ordinance, which could be superseded by legislation making its way through the Legislature, encountered no opposition July 5 when the City Council approved it.

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