Banned in Beverly Hills

Eating alfresco in Beverly Hills, California, officially became a smoke-free practice yesterday.

A new city law -- passed in June and enacted on October 1 -- established "new fresh-air zones" that prohibit smoking in outdoor dining areas, including restaurants located in hotels, and within five feet of any open-air restaurant section. Portions of hotel pool decks are now the one public place in the city where you can both eat and smoke, and then only in 25 percent of a deck's area.

The Beverly Hills Restaurant Association, according to local reports, opposed the law, saying it could impact business by driving smoking restaurant patrons to neighboring cities where lighting up at an outdoor table is still permitted. The local government responds to such claims by saying that patrons prefer a smoke-free environment and spend more time in establishments that provide it.

California state law prohibits smoking inside all restaurants, bars and cafes, but certain municipalities have been expanding the reach of their respective legislation. In Southern California, in addition to Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Santa Monica and Burbank have brought the bans outdoors.

The Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills, a private club with a well-heeled celebrity membership, has gained exemption for its outdoor patio because the area is located above street level and away from public walkways.

Violators of the law could face fines of $100 for the first offense and as much as $500 for additional offenses.

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