City's air-ordinance negotiations collapse

Botelho to address Assembly about next step in the process

Posted: Sunday, May 16, 2004

Talks over amending the current clean indoor air ordinance have gone up in smoke, officials and negotiators said.

After four negotiating sessions, the Juneau Clean Air Coalition and the Cabaret, Hotel and Restaurant Retailers could not agree over the issue of making all public places in Juneau smoke-free.

Mayor Bruce Botelho, who moderated the meetings, will update the Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole on Monday about where the two sides left off in final negotiations, which ended Tuesday.

"Both sides worked hard to find common ground and couldn't bridge that gap," Botelho said Friday.

Botelho said he plans to present his view Monday night on the next step in the process.

JCAC Chairwoman Joan Cahill said the group's final negotiating offer was to have restaurant bars smoke-free by Jan. 2, 2005, and stand-alone bars smoke-free by April 1, 2007.

JCAC and CHARR have a different understanding of CHARR's final negotiation terms.

Triangle Club Owner Leeann Thomas said CHARR's final offer was that restaurant bars be smoke-free by Jan. 2, 2005, and a moratorium be placed on discussing a smoking ban in stand-alone bars until Jan. 2, 2010.

Cahill said she understood CHARR's final offer to make restaurant bars smoke-free by July 1, 2004, if JCAC agreed to a moratorium on discussing a smoking ban for stand-alone bars until 2007. JCAC would not agree to the moratorium.

Extending a smoking ban in stand-alone bars to 2007 was not JCAC's preference, but it wanted to be flexible and show a willingness to compromise, Cahill said.

"We felt we made a huge concession," Cahill said. "It was philosophically difficult for us to do, but we wanted to show the industry that we were sympathetic to their economic concerns."

In the end, CHARR's membership would not endorse a 2007 smoking ban, Thomas said. She declined to explain why, other than to say it was a vote of the membership.

She did say that JCAC has nothing to lose under the terms of any agreement, whereas bar owners could lose their livelihoods.

CHARR member and G.W. Teal co-owner Neil Atkinson said that setting a smoking ban date puts a bar owner at a financial disadvantage.

"Once you put a date in, it's something you're going to have to live with," Atkinson said.

If a bar owner, for example, wants to sell his business, a prospective buyer would have to tell a lender that he could lose about 20 percent of his income due to a smoking ban scheduled to take effect later, Atkinson said. That situation would put a prospective buyer at a disadvantage when trying to borrow money, he said.

Atkinson said he and his partner, Lyn Fiehler, recently lost a prospective buyer for their Mendenhall Valley bar because of the smoking ordinance issue. They charged JCAC with the task of buying their liquor license and running it smoke-free.

JCAC said it was not in the bar business and declined their offer.

"It's not a resolution to a public policy issue," Cahill said.

Cahill said JCAC will agree with any recommendation by the Assembly to make all public places smoke-free, but would prefer the change to happen by the end of 2005. The Assembly is divided over whether to pass an ordinance making all public places smoke-free or ask the public to vote on the issue during the October election. CHARR and JCAC oppose a ballot initiative.

The current clean indoor air ordinance allows smoking in some restaurant bars that were grandfathered under the law and all stand-alone bars. Botelho has been a proponent of making all public places smoke-free. He signed JCAC's petition prior to becoming mayor last October.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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