By BRIAN SMITH
Weatherford officials are looking to get feedback from restaurant owners on the issue and possible regulation of smoking in public places.
Following a work session Tuesday afternoon, council members directed city staff to talk to business owners to find out their thoughts on smoking and how regulating smoking in public would affect business.
Contacted Wednesday by the Weatherford Democrat, Eric Perrin, a manager at Buffalo Wild Wings in Weatherford, said he could see the regulation of public smoking going either way but with an estimated half of his customers smoking, he said it could have a detrimental effect on business.
“We have an outdoor patio, but we don’t want to lose any business at all,” Perrin said.
Along with restaurants, council members are also considering regulating smoking in city parks, which City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said could be done simply with the posting of signs.
“Establishing city policy would be fairly easy,” Blaisdell said.
Parks and Recreation Director Danielle Felts said there are no signs banning smoking in parks because there is no current policy. She said enforcing the policy in parks could ostensibly be difficult because by the time law enforcement is contacted, the offender could be long gone.
“We can make all kinds of rules, but if we can’t enforce them then what’s the point?” asked council member Waymon Hamilton.
Council member Jeff Robinson said secondhand smoke is still responsible for many deaths each year.
“It’s also a health hazard and offensive,” Robinson said. “When children are picking up cigarette butts near the playground equipment, that’s a problem that needs to be dealt with.”
Council member Heidi Wilder said young people working in restaurants can be affected by secondhand smoke. Robinson said research shows businesses are not dramatically affected by smoking regulations.
Some council members had differing ideas. Mayor Pro Tem Craig Swancy said he had a problem making policy for other people’s businesses.
“I chose to make my business non-smoking and it hasn’t hurt my business,” said Swancy, who owns a music store. “Musicians are known to be smokers, too.”
Swancy suggested telling businesses that if they wanted to regulate smokers inside their business, it would be fine.
Mayor Dennis Hooks agreed with Swancy on not “cramming regulations down businesses’ throats,” but also said, “you can’t make people healthy.”
“Contacting business owners who allow smoking and getting their opinion would be the way to go,” Hooks said.
Robinson suggested having an online survey on the subject, but Hamilton said the city had done that with chickens in the city limits a few months back and the council voted, 3-2, to do the opposite of what the majority suggested.
Hooks is still looking for public feedback on the issue. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.