Soldotna restaurants are now officially smoke free.
A restaurant smoking ban passed by the Soldotna City Council in October went into effect at 12:01 this morning. The ban applies to all indoor eating establishments that serve food. Bars are exempt from the ban, as are separately ventilated bar areas of restaurants and restaurants being used for private functions. Under the ordinance, a bar is defined as a place where alcohol is served and minors under the age of 21 are not allowed.
The city, in conjunction with the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance, has been running public service campaign in local media to educate residents about the ban. The city also has published a list of frequently asked questions on its Web site.
Local business owners have been aware of the impending ban since ordinance 766 was passed in October, and City Manager Tom Boedeker told the city council last week that all affected businesses are expected to be in compliance with the ban today.
"Most of the businesses are already in compliance," Boedeker said.
Approximately 29 Soldotna businesses will be subject to the smoking ban, although many of those never allowed smoking to begin with.
Restaurants that had previously allowed smoking can either install separately ventilated bar smoking areas, ban smoking entirely or find other ways to accommodate smokers. Two examples include the Riverside House, which has built an enclosed bar area, and Buckets Sports Grill, which has an outside deck where smoking will be allowed.
Mykel's restaurant owner Alice Paulson said her restaurant will be one of those that goes entirely smoke-free. She said the restaurant has been posting signs in anticipation of the new ordinance and has even had one smoke-free day to try out customer reaction to the ban.
"It went fine, with no complaints," she said of the Feb. 14 test run.
Although Mykel's does have a separate lounge area, Paulson said she did not plan to equip it with a separate ventilation system that would comply with the ordinance. However, she did say plans are in the works to build a shelter off the side of the building to give smokers who venture outside some protection from the elements.
According to the ordinance, a first violation by a business would result in a written warning, followed by increasing penalties for each subsequent violation. Indi-viduals caught in violation of the ordinance will be subject to a fine not exceeding $100 for a first offense, up to $200 for a second offense in a 24-month period, and up to $500 for each additional offense in a 24-month period.
Soldotna police will be responsible for citing individual violators. Businesses that fail to comply with provisions of the law -- such as not posting signs or failing to properly ventilate smoking areas -- will be handled by city inspectors.
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