Volume 96, Issue 78
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

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London smoking ban looms

By Christopher Hodge
Gazette Staff

London bar owners made a last ditch effort yesterday to sway City Council before they held a vote on a proposed smoking bylaw that would make it illegal to smoke in bars.

"We're going to protect the health of students whether they like it or not," said councillor Gary Williams, one of the 18 councillors overseeing the proposed bylaw.

Lead by Mark Dencev, general manager of the Richmond Tavern, the protesters gathered outside of City Hall yesterday to voice their concerns.

"I think it's pretty clear it's going to have a devastating effect," Dencev said. "I'm expecting a 50 per cent drop in business."

"It's a timely issue, with two opposing views. Each member of the council will have to consider their own research and the best interests of the community, and then decide for themselves," said London Mayor Marie Anne DeCicco, about the decision council faced.

Susan Eagle, a London city councillor and chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee – which oversaw all the public meeting held on the subject – was also confident that, if passed, the new bylaw would not cause a significant decrease in sales.

"We have looked at other municipalities, and it's not near the impact that bar owners say it is. I think the data speaks for itself," Eagle said.

Although many councillors support the bylaw, London bar owners are not without their supporters.

"We are prepared to look at designated smoking rooms," said city council controller Bud Polhill. "I'm prepared to at least let the industry try and prove to me that they work."

Councillor Gordon Hume also expressed concern. "I'm very troubled by the thought of businesses going out of business. We're hoping to provide them with opportunities to reduce their loses," he said.

Norman Peel, co-owner of the Wits End Pub, said that although he will be disappointed if the bylaw is passed, he is still confident London bars will be able to weather any financial losses that may occur should the bylaw be passed.

"We have a very good base of people who smoke, and those who don't smoke. Hopefully we can adapt to this," Peel said.

If passed, London bars would be granted a period of adjustment before the new law is implemented, explained councillor Rob Alder.

"We will do what we can to mitigate the negative economic impact by providing a delay in the implication of the new bylaw until Jul. 1," Alder said.

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