5 voted for – 2 voted against
By Karen Daniels
Effective August 1, 2013, the City of Stafford will commence a ban on smoking. The word “compromise” was used time and again by Council Members as they discussed Stafford’s progress on the matter and finding a middle ground. Mayor Scarcella further stated that unfortunately the ordinance does not go far enough to “protect children living in private residences whose parents or guardians smoke.”
One exemption to the ordinance will apply to bars and establishments who receive at least 70% of gross revenues from alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption. Businesses will be required to submit sales records for a period of 3 consecutive months. Copies of tax returns presented to the Texas Comptroller may serve as documentation. To read the entire ordinance, check the City’s website at www.cityofstafford.com/.
Plenty of restaurants in Stafford already prohibit smoking in their restaurants. Those who provide an open patio for public smoking, or those who are planning to build one, must adhere to a 25 foot distance from the entrance. There was some talk by Council Members that this be pushed back to 50 feet, but the Mayor spoke against this, stating that he did not want to further punish business owners by making it more difficult for them to be successful.
Members of the audience came forward during the public hearing to thank Council for being aware of the obvious health concerns second and third-hand smoke cause. It was mentioned that although an establishment might lose one customer due to the ordinance, they may gain five in return. Mayor Scarcella reminded everyone that enforcement of this would be a low priority for the Stafford Police Department and they were not going to become the “cigarette police.”
Before the vote was taken, the Mayor asked that the “excessive” fine which is listed as “up to $2,000” be lowered to the amount of $500. “We cannot penalize businesses when it’s because of them that Stafford can have no property tax,” the Mayor said. The vote passed 5 – 2 (Mayor Scarcella and Councilman Cecil Willis voted against). Additionally, the fine request was not lowered.