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Philadelphia Bans Smoking in Bars, Restaurants

Owners express concern that patrons will take their business outside the city limits.
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After years political wrangling, Philadelphia Mayor John Street on Thursday signed a bill banning smoking in restaurants and most city bars.

The bill, which took almost seven years to come to fruition, was passed by the City Council in June after some exemptions were ironed out. Smoking will not be banned in sidewalk cafes, casinos, private clubs or specialty tobacco establishments. In addition, local taverns that receive at least 90% of their revenue from drink sales will be exempt for two years. Violators will be fined as much as $300.

Still, when the law takes effect in January, it will ensure that 99% of workplaces in Philadelphia are smoke-free. Under existing laws, smoking is currently prohibited in any enclosed area to which the general public is invited or routinely permitted, including office buildings.

The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, which at one time opposed the bill, applauded the mayor's signature. After studying the effects of similar bans in cities such as Boston and New York, chamber officials said they expect the ban might even have a positive impact on restaurant revenues. 

"The ban extends a new invitation to people who don't smoke," said Mark Schweiker, the chamber's president and CEO. "I'm hard pressed to see any tremendous negative consequences."

But some business owners are not quite as optimistic. Dan Cordero, who owns the Sand Dollar Tavern, a bar and restaurant on the outskirts of Philadelphia, said that in the short term, the ban is bad news for establishments like his. "Until there is a statewide ban, this is really going to hurt," he said. "My customers will just drive 10 minutes down the road to a bar where they can smoke."

Cordero said he also worries about the challenges that will come with enforcing the law. "The city should give me training on how to implement this thing, and they should compensate me for the time I'm going to spend getting people to put out their cigarettes," he said.




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