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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Will Zeitgeist Have to Choose Between Letting Patrons Smoke or Eat Burgers?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 10:11 AM

click to enlarge S.F.'s newly extended smoking ban could radically alter patio bars that serve food. - NICOLE N./YELP
  • Nicole N./Yelp
  • S.F.'s newly extended smoking ban could radically alter patio bars that serve food.
Yes, secondhand smoke is a bummer. But the expansion of the smoking ban in San Francisco could extinguish some really great places to smoke in the city. Zeitgeist's outdoor patio, for one.

The extended ban that supervisors passed Tuesday includes restaurant patios, movie and ATM lines, the common areas of housing complexes, doorways and windows of businesses, and bingo halls. (Damn, we loved smoking in bingo halls!)

According to Linshao Chin, a legislative aid to Supervisor Eric Mar, it's going to be up to the San Francisco Department of Public Health to determine which eating and drinking establishments qualify as restaurants (and therefore fall under the new rules) and which are simply bars (and therefore exempt). The city, she added, currently defines a bar as a drinking establishment where food is considered "incidental." Will Zeitgeist have to choose between allowing patrons to eat hamburgers and allowing them to smoke on the patio? That would pretty much suck, some say.

"I like personal freedom in appropriate places," said a bearded man sitting at a picnic table outside the bar on Wednesday afternoon. The man ― a father of a one-year-old ― was accompanied by a woman smoking a Winston, and another who smoked for 20 years then quit. All said the ban was going too far.

"This is the perfect place to smoke," the ex-smoker said.

One tattooed Zeitgeist bartender, who asked not to be identified by name, said he doesn't think the ban will be effective. Good luck stopping people with a crippling addiction, he said. (To that, a drunk patron shouted, "I smoke DMT. Put that in your fucking article!") Owners of other restaurant-bars say they aren't sure about their role in enforcing the new regulations.

Chin says the new legislation will be complaint-based, but that business owners will be held responsible for staying in compliance by DPH. "If DPH receives a complaint, they will go out to the business," she said. "The first step is to talk to the owner and find out if the owner has done their due diligence."

It will be up to the owner, Chin said, to post appropriate signage and to keep patrons from smoking in non-smoking areas.

Joan Robins, general manager of The Ramp Restaurant in Potrero Hill, worries that she'll have to hire another security guard to patrol the vast outdoor patio areas of her lively waterfront establishment. "They're asking businesses to comply with things that are really difficult in this city," she said.

Robins says that by the time she found out what was going on, she felt it was too late to do anything about it. Rush Walnigatunga, the general manager of the Cocomo Cafe at Mariposa and 19th Streets, agreed. "We weren't really aware of the legislation being passed until a couple of days ago," he said.

Cocomo Cafe's outdoor smoking patio has been open for the past 12 years, Walnigatunga said, and not one customer has ever complained about people smoking there.

Should Mayor Gavin Newsom sign the new legislation ― and it's looking very likely ― it'll go into effect for outdoor restaurant patios in six months.

Update: Zeitgeist's smoking status to be determined by how officials parse the word "incidental."

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Ashley Harrell


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