New legislation has seen a proliferation of ‘no smoking’ signs appear in outdoor areas of Wellington eateries and bars, negatively impacting a number of local businesses.
Popular haunts Rogue and Vagabond, Fidel’s, and Havana Bar are just a few of approximately 60 businesses who have had their outdoor areas reviewed under the Smoke-free Environment Act.
Problems have also arisen around what constitutes an outdoor space under the new laws, with one of the criteria being the average person’s perception of what that space is. It is here that Fidel’s co-owner Potti Wagstaff believes the council are over-reaching this definition.
He is also concerned about the effect the legislation has on patron safety, saying “[patrons] can’t go on the footpath because we don’t have a liquor licence there, so it creates a lot more issues including the security of people and meeting my requirements as a liquor licence holder.”
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It has also been left up to the cafe and bar owners to inform patrons of the new law.
“Public Health should have notified and educated the public on what they were going to do,” says Wagstaff.
Business owners were notified to make their areas non-smoking immediately via a letter. The letters were then followed by a visit from the Smoke-free Enforcement Officers who were checking it was being enforced.
This crackdown on bars and cafes comes as the Wellington City Council have announced their goal to reduce smoking in the capital to less than 5 per cent by 2025.
Business owners say this long-term plan is making it impossible to fight the new policies.
“They’re trying to make it impossible for people to smoke, and that’s what you are fighting against—their plan is to get rid of it,” says Rogue and Vagabond owner Gwilym Waldren.
Placing restrictions on smokers has been part of Public Health’s strategy for some time now, but Waldren says, unless it is made illegal, smokers should have areas to smoke.
“The government can’t have it both ways. You either make them illegal or, if they’re going to sell them at every corner store in the whole country, then give people a place to smoke.”
Waldren says business owners will now have no choice but to build new smoking areas that meet specifications.
At the time of print, Smoke-free Enforcement Officers had not respond to requests for comment.