The Juneau Police Department issued a warning under a new city smoking law Wednesday - the first since the ban took effect Jan. 1.
"We had one call yesterday and we looked into it and issued a verbal warning," police Capt. Tom Porter said. The warning was issued to a person downtown, he said.
The city's smoking ban covers most offices and restaurants and is designed to limit secondhand smoke in public places. Bars are exempt.
"We are going to be doing a combination of education to familiarize people with the ordinance and will use warnings a majority of the time," Porter said. "That doesn't mean we won't cite in an egregious situation."
The smoking ordinance would have applied to Donna's Restaurant near the Airport Mall, but the business received an extension from the city. Owners Tim and Ariana Giamakidis plan to renovate the former art-supply store next door and turn it into a private club where people of legal age will be allowed to smoke.
They have until May 1 to do so, City Manager Dave Palmer said.
"They convinced me that they are actively pursuing a construction option," he said. "They came in with documentation and a plan where it's moving ahead."
A walled-off kitchen will separate the restaurant from the new Donna's Club. The restaurant and the club will have separate entrances, Ariana Giamakidis said.
"We have a lot of smokers who have been coming here for years and we wanted to accommodate them as well as the nonsmokers," she said. "I wanted to keep everybody happy."
The Giamakidises are waiting for permits to go through before construction begins and aren't sure yet what the cost of the project will be. People will have to apply for a free membership to eat at Donna's Club, they said. In the interim, smoking will be allowed in the restaurant.
Word of the change has already gotten out among the regulars at Donna's. Gary Severance, who was eating eggs and hash browns at the lunch counter Wednesday, said he'll be more likely to come to Donna's because smoking will be allowed.
"It should be up to the owner of the facility to say yes or no," he said. "It's more interference in private enterprise. We'll live with (the smoking ordinance). We just won't vote for the people who voted it in."
Across the room, Brownie Hunt said he quit eating at Juneau's airport when smoking was banned a few years ago.
"I come here a lot of times and don't smoke, but the point of it is that it's my option," he said.
His daughter Pam Hunt said she may be visiting Donna's more often with her father since smoking will be allowed.
"I quit smoking so I like to be in a place where there's not smoking so I'm not tempted to smoke," she said. "But I still think that people who do smoke should be able to go have a meal somewhere and not have to go outside for a cigarette."
For others, the smoking ban brings welcome relief. Cathy Boutin has asthma and advocated for the new law. She may have trouble catching her breath or be sent into a coughing fit after taking in one puff of tobacco smoke, she said.
"I feel much more comfortable going out in public these days," she said. "There are restaurants that I could not go to before that I'll be trying out now, which is kind of an exciting prospect. I'm really looking forward to that."
The smoking ban also applies to cabs. James Harris, a taxi driver and one of the owners of Juneau Taxi and Tours and Metro Taxi, said last week he didn't expect a significant change in business. About 60 percent of his customers smoke, but they are usually in a cab for a short time - 10 to 15 minutes, he said.
"A lot of our drivers already don't smoke in the vehicles and a lot of our customers are asthmatic," he said. "All around, it's probably better for the customer."
A person caught smoking where it is prohibited faces a $50 fine under the new ordinance. The fine for a business starts at $200.
Joanna Markell can be reached at email@example.com.
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