A couple dozen people turned out for the City of San Marcos’ first open house meeting about a possible smoking ban ordinance in bars and restaurants Monday.
The open house was held at the city’s activity center. Citizens were asked to visit several stations set-up at the event to give their input. The city is looking to get a few questions answered before its next council meeting, when council members will consider putting a smoking ban ordinance on a ballot for voters to decide. The first question, is smoking a serious problem? Is the city the right entity to address it? And lastly, is the city’s approach reasonable, sensible and responsible?
“Even as a smoker myself, I don’t want to vote for a smoking ban, but it makes businesses better.” said Matt Hageman. “It really takes a lot of liability off most business owners. Most business owners don’t want to have smoking in their place. But they’re trying to accommodate their customers.”
Some bar owners disagreed.
“I would just assume, leave it in what the owner of the establishment wants to do. I’ve made the decision to go non smoking. It’s worked for me, I think the business owners should have the choice,” said the owner of Vodka Street Bar, Eric White.
White said his bar is the first in downtown San Marcos to have a patio-only smoking area. But White also owns another bar, which allows smoking indoors. He said Monday, the ban would hurt that business and some others. So, he’s on the fence.
Once councilman spoke out at the open house meeting Tuesday and said the methodology of gathering citizen comment was biased and skewed, in favor of a smoking ban ordinance. Councilman Fred Terry pointed out five booths that were set up at the open house. The booths were run by smoking ban supporters like the American Heart Association, Cancer Society and more. Representatives from those groups had fliers to pass out. Smoking supporters were invited too do the same. But the assistant City Manager told me they didn’t want to set-up a booth. Terry said it should have been all or nothing.
Terry said another reason, city staff were given round stickers to hand out for the purposes of voting on the issue at different stations. FOX 7 News asked a city staff member who was handing out the stickers how he would know if someone voted twice. He said he didn’t. He said he would just have to remember their face.
“I didn’t do anything with this. This is staff that did this and they will hear about it,” said Terry. “I don’t think there was an agenda. I just don’t think there was enough thought put into it. I know the council is pushing staff to do these things so that we can have a result from this.”
There is another open house meeting this Thursday at the Texas Music Theater. It starts at 6 p.m. till 8 p.m. City council will vote on whether or not to put the smoking ban on the ballot in August. The vote would be non-binding.