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For smokers, it’s down and out in Beverly Hills

Times Staff Writer

Banners hung throughout downtown Beverly Hills this week announcing that “Dining is Now Smoke-Free.”

But Niloo, a longtime smoker and resident, said she was caught off guard by the outdoor smoking ban that took effect Monday. She was not pleased.

“Nowadays it seems like a crime,” she said, sitting outside the Koo Koo Roo restaurant on Beverly Boulevard. “I’m going to be moving out of Beverly Hills for my entertainment.”

California law prohibits smoking inside restaurants, cafes and bars. Concerned about the hazards of secondhand smoke, however, a growing number of cities have taken things a step further by banning smoking in outdoor venues.

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In Southern California, those cities include Calabasas, Santa Monica and Burbank.

Earlier this year, Beverly Hills announced its plan to join them. The ban rankled the city’s restaurant and hotel owners, who feared that it would drive away tourists who smoke, especially those from Europe, said Dan Walsh, chief executive of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce.

City officials said they don’t know how much of the $1 billion in annual retail spending comes from foreign visitors. But an earlier study showed that in 2004, international tourists accounted for 39% of the 5 million visitors to the city.

After some negotiation, the city modified the outdoor smoking ban, making it more palatable for businesses, Walsh said.

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“The dialogue has happened,” he said. “We have a lot more collaboration.”

As part of a compromise, the city agreed to allow a quarter of hotel patio space to be reserved for smokers, Walsh said.

The city also decided to delay implementation of the ban until Oct. 1, thereby allowing the summer tourist season to wind down before the ban took effect. By waiting for the new fiscal quarter, the city would be in a better position to gauge the ban’s effect on businesses when officials review state tax revenues and compare the data to past records.

On Monday, a British tourist, who preferred not to give his name, sat reading at an outdoor cafe off Beverly Boulevard, puffing on a hand-rolled cigarette.

Informed of the outdoor smoking ban, he said: “I find it slightly weird considering the number of large cars going by.”

But he dutifully put out his cigarette, and vowed that the ban would not affect his view of the upscale city.

Several restaurant and cafe owners on bustling Beverly Boulevard said the ban would have little effect on their businesses.

“People here don’t smoke,” said Liora Amkie, owner of O4U restaurant and bakery.

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But a clerk at Beverly Hills Pipe and Tobacco took a different position.

“Ninety percent of our clients smoke outside,” he said. “I think it’s going to eventually hit us.”

One nonsmoker was conflicted.

Gayle Paperno, of Chatsworth, liked sitting in the smoke-free air at Koo Koo Roo, but believes that everyone has a right to smoke, even though her mother died of a smoking-related illness.

“If my mom were alive,” Paperno said, “she would be standing right here with a protest sign saying that she has the right to smoke, even though she was dying from smoking.”

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sam.quinones@latimes.com


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