Boulder City Council votes initial approval of smoking ban on Pearl Street Mall

Ban would prohibit smoking outdoors along mall

BOULDER - The Boulder City Council tentatively approved a smoking ban on the Pearl Street Mall Tuesday night.

While the second council vote -- 8-0 -- was expected to be the final approval of the ban Tuesday night, the panel has to vote a third time later this month because it reduced the penalties in the ordinance, said Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley.

In the second vote, the City Council reduced the maximum penalty to $500 for first and second violations within a two-year period, Huntley said. The council rejected a previous ordinance that might have resulted in stiffer penalties -- a maximum $1,000 fine or up to 90 days in jail -- for someone ticketed for a third smoking offense within two years.

The change requires a third, final vote by the council on Dec. 18 to ensure compliance with public notice requirements.

Final council approval of the ordinance would ban all smoking along the popular shopping and tourist attraction from 11th Street to 15th Street. The ordinance comes after what city officials called years of complaints from residents and business owners.

"This is one area where there's a special concentration of people," said Molly Winter who manages the Pearl Street Mall.

Winter said business owners have complained that smoke is driving away customers and even becoming a nuisance. If passed, the ban would be enforced by police and carries a fine of $500 fine for the first and second offense.

"I would go directly back to the health issues and the impacts of second hand smoke," Winter said. "The impacts of second hand smoke are significant and it's a public health hazard."

Lee Nemerowicz owns Boulder Furniture Arts on the mall. He said customers often complain to him about smoke from outside his store funneling inside through his front door. He also said he wastes a lot of time cleaning up cigarette butts outside his store.

Nemerowicz likens the proposed ban to the ban already in place on the mall for dogs and pets.

"Boulder's a very dog friendly town but with a concentration of people in this four block area, I think it's okay to ask for an exception to that," Nemerowicz said.

"It's terrible infringement of our rights," said smoker and popular mall musician Hippy Joe. "It's air that everybody's messing up and my cigarettes are a very small proportion of pollutants being chunked out in the air."

Another smoker, Bradley Books said he's already used to all the indoor smoking bans and had prepared for an outdoor ban.  

"It does infringe on the rights but at the same time non-smokers do have a right too," Books said.

If the council passes the ordinance as expected, the city will have about two months of public education about the smoking ban, including posting no-smoking signs on the mall, before enforcement of the law begins early next year.


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