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This Group Wants to Ban Smoking in Austin Bar and Restaurant Patios

City Council will consider the proposal in the fall

Hard Luck Lounge
Hard Luck Lounge
Hard Luck Lounge/Facebook
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

Central Health, a Central Texas public health organization, is looking to ban smoking completely from the patios of Austin bars and restaurants, as reported by the Chronicle. The group wants to create more smoke-free places where people wouldn’t have to deal with secondhand smoke.

Local bars and music venues are understandably against the proposal, including places along Red River, East 6th Street, and around campus. The restriction would deter potential customers. Hotel Vegas co-owner Jason McNelly told the publication:

It would put us out of business [...] People come out to drink and they like to smoke when they drink. That's nightlife. If we can't let people smoke on our patio, the kids will start doing house shows instead of playing here.

Smoking was banned in public places, which included the indoor spaces of bars and restaurants, in 2005. Outdoor areas like patios and decks weren't included in that original regulation. As Chronicle further explained:

[...] smoking patios proved an effective compromise to the indoor smoking ban. Taking them away means that patrons would have to finish their drinks and leave the premises to light up since current laws specify that smoking within 15 feet of an entrance is illegal.

Central Health’s Equity Policy Council is undertaking the charge, preparing the proposal which will go in front of Austin City Council in the fall.

The patio smoking ban was floated around in 2013. Then, it was heralded by Austin’s Early Childhood Council, with an emphasis on secondhand smoke, but it had been since dropped. Other cities with current bans on patio smoking include Boston, Palo Alto, Boulder, Portland in Maine, Santa Fe, Philadelphia, and more.