VENTURA : City Refuses to Relax Smoking Ordinance


After a heated debate that pitted restaurant owners and bingo parlor operators against health officials and relatives of cancer victims, the Ventura City Council has refused to relax its strict smoking ban.

The city ordinance requires restaurant owners to immediately prohibit smoking in lounge areas or install ventilation systems to protect diners from secondhand smoke. A number of restaurateurs had asked city officials to align Ventura’s ordinance with state law, which gives owners until 1997 to comply with those requirements.

Restaurant owners complain they are losing business to Oxnard, where diners are allowed to smoke through 1996. Ventura bingo operators said they have also lost revenue to bingo parlors in other cities that allow smoking.


But the council voted 5 to 2 against changing the ordinance to match state law, which does not regulate smoking in gaming rooms. Councilmen Jack Tingstrom and Jim Monahan opposed.

“This is a good example of listening to public testimony and weighing the facts,” Councilman Gregory L. Carson said after Monday’s two-hour hearing.

Some merchants said the smoking ban was putting them out of business.

“We’ve been here 24 years, but the way it looks, we won’t be around for a 25th year,” said Richard Jack, who operates a coffee bar at the Alano Club of Ventura, which hosts more than 20 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each week.

Jack said the ban has caused his revenue to drop from $4,000 a month to less than $3,000 monthly.