Eateries weigh in on ban

DOWNTOWN — Reaction among restaurateurs to the continued development of a smoking ban for outdoor dining areas has so far been muted, but that could change as word of the possible prohibition grows, officials said.

The City Council on Tuesday directed city officials to include outdoor dining in a draft ordinance that, together with a smoking ban for all city-owned property and other areas, would significantly increase smoking restrictions in Glendale.

At the council meeting Tuesday, just one person spoke out against the restrictions, and even then, it was on philosophical grounds.

“That tells me [business owners] don’t know,” said Judee Kendall, executive director of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce.

But as word of the possible prohibition spreads, some restaurant owners are preparing to fight its inclusion in the draft ordinance.

“I would have gone to the council meeting and opposed it,” said Kevin Aksacki, owner of the Brazilian restaurant Gauchos on North Brand Boulevard, adding that he was out of town on Tuesday.

“I want to get together with others on this if they’re going to oppose it,” he said.

The provision would ban smoking at all outdoor dining areas on public property, such as sidewalk seating for restaurants, bars and cafes. It would also extend to outdoor seating on private restaurant property unless a smoking section could be cordoned off at least 20 feet away from the smoke-free area.

For a large place like Minx Restaurant and Lounge in northwest Glendale, that caveat would allow the potential rule to be easily implemented, manager Brian Pavsek said.

The “night life” portion of the deck, where most smoking occurs, is already about 50 feet away from the outdoor dining area, he said.

But for many downtown eateries and cafes, the 20-foot barrier is impossible, and so they stand to fall under the ban if it passes. About a half-dozen downtown restaurateurs on Thursday said they feared a ban would push customers out of the area.

The provision narrowly made it past the council on Tuesday after Mayor John Drayman threw his support behind it, arguing the city had a responsibility to regulate harmful public health effects to the same degree as disturbing the peace.

Last week, Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith introduced legislation to ban smoking at outdoor eating areas, excluding bars. Burbank has been enforcing a similar ban since August. And Pasadena is in the process of developing its own outdoor smoking ban.

Still, Mike Cholakian, owner of Carousel Restaurant on North Brand Boulevard, said the ban would cut about 4% into his business. Just five tables make up his sidewalk seating area, but he said it provided smokers with an important option.

Lia Riina, a bartender at the Left Coast Wine Bar on East Harvard Street, said the ban would be unworkable.

A half-dozen high tables in a fenced-off sidewalk area make up the bar’s outdoor seating, and policing her largely European clientele would be “stupid,” she said.

“It’s a cultural thing,” Riina said. “We have a large European population in Glendale, and smoking is a part of it.”

Many restaurant owners said they were unaware of the City Council’s effort to curb second-hand smoke in public, despite city notices that were sent out before the meeting, and that they would make their opposition known as the ordinance continues to be developed.

But some restaurants, like Raffi’s Place on Broadway, will have no stake in the fight. Smoking is not allowed in its outdoor, covered dining area, which comprises much of the restaurant.

The ban was imposed last year after customers started complaining, said Raymond Vakijian, whose family owns the restaurant.

“It’s a family atmosphere with a lot of children sometimes, and so [smoking] is not appropriate,” he said as the floor bustled during lunch hour Thursday.

Business, he added, had not suffered.

“I think it’s better for everyone,” Vakijian said.

The Glendale Chamber of Commerce plans to e-mail its membership, which includes 25 to 30 restaurants, on Monday to inform them of the development, Kendall said.

City officials are scheduled to bring the draft smoking ordinance back to the City Council in August for further consideration.

 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at

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