It could get even tougher for Parliament smokers in Provincetown. The town banned smoking inside restaurants and bars in the fall of 2002, two years before the state passed a similar law. And in most restaurants with outdoor seating, owners limit smokers to the periphery of any outdoor space out of courtesy to nonsmoking patrons, if they allow smoking at all.
Currently, smoking in restaurants is limited to unenclosed outdoor areas — that is, where only one wall connects the area to the restaurant, such as a patio.
The new regulation would designate any area “where food is served” as a nonsmoking area regardless of how open it is. It would include bars that serve food.
But several local restaurantgoers and restaurateurs said this week further regulation would be pointless.
John Harper, a Brewster native who lives in Provincetown seasonally, admitted it’s “annoying” to smell cigarette smoke when dining out. But he said this rarely happens.
“In Provincetown they kind of have a system where they’ll put you on the outskirts and away from the other people,” he said. “[This restriction] would be silly because there’s already a system. I don’t think it would do anything at all.”
Astrid Berg, who owns Pepe’s Wharf, a waterfront restaurant on Commercial Street, limits smoking areas to a small patio at street level and an upstairs bar, though there are many more outdoor seating spots. Except for one cigarette burning in an ashtray, there were none visible among the dozens of customers on Monday afternoon.
“Smoking, of course, is a horrible thing, but it’s still legal,” she said. “And as long as they’re selling cigarettes, people are going to be smoking. What is this going to accomplish? Just more people smoking on the street.”
It’s the same story a couple of blocks away at Patio American Grill. Owner Joachim Sandbichler said he doesn’t usually get many patrons who smoke, but when they do, he simply seats them on the edge of the outdoor area — the same courtesy given to dog owners. Even then, he said, when someone lights up, they usually get up and stand outside.
“It would basically change nothing, other than inconveniencing those people who are not allowed to sit down,” he said. “They would have to get up, step onto the other side of the fence, and they probably would smoke 10 inches away from where they smoked before. It’s kind of silly.”
Provincetown health agent Jane Evans said the health department had two reported smoking violations by restaurants on record from last summer, and received another complaint in November. After that, the board decided to take action.
“If it’s a bar, you can move,” Evans said. “But if you’re rooted to a table, you can’t pick up and move.”
Members of the board of health could not be reached for comment.
Evans said the board decided to make their Thursday meeting a public forum, though not legally required to do so, because they expect the topic to be contentious.
Indeed, they’ve already received some disapproving responses. Bob Sanborn, the town’s director of tourism, said the visitor services board wrote a letter to the board of health protesting the measure.
“We are in favor of clarifying the existing bylaw,” which identifies where smoking is already banned, he said, “but we are not in favor of making it more restrictive.”
Sanborn said the tourism board’s final stance lies in the specific wording of the visitor services board’s letter: “Provincetown welcomes smokers and nonsmokers alike,” he said.
Sanborn said he believes further restrictions on smoking would have “some adverse impact on tourism.”
Berg, the Pepe’s Wharf owner, agreed.
“I think it’s a bad economic choice,” she said. “I think it’s ridiculous, especially at this time of season. We are a tourist town. Our only spoke in the whole wheel of the economy is tourism. I believe it’s the agenda of a few people on the board of health.”
She added, “Until the state of Massachusetts outlaws smoking in all public places, why is the town pursuing this?”