Smoking in bars, bingo parlors and private clubs in Fort Worth will soon end.
The City Council directed city attorneys on Tuesday to draft an ordinance that clamps down on smoking in public places. The only exception: Smoking will still be allowed at stores whose primary business is to sell cigars and tobacco products.
No deadline was placed on when a new ordinance would be completed and brought back to the council. A public hearing will be held when its placed on the City Council agenda for a vote. A majority of the council supports the changes, based on comments from members Tuesday.
In asking for the new ordinance, the council members agreed the city’s smoking ordinance has not kept pace with public sentiment and data that shows the ill effects of secondhand smoke.
Mayor Betsy Price said most people vote with their pocketbook and don’t go to places if smoking is allowed. There’s a grassroots effort to see Fort Worth become smoke-free, including from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, the city’s hospitals and some bar owners.
“The timing seems to be really good for this,” Price said. “Things have dramatically changed in the last few years. All the cities in Tarrant County are now smoke-free with the exception of Fort Worth. This would make Tarrant County totally smoke-free.”
“There are very few situations where I think a carve-out would be a good idea, but that’s one that’s reasonable,” Koch said.
The direction came from the council members after they were briefed by Christa Lopez-Reynolds, a senior assistant city attorney, on the current ordinance, its history and what other cities are doing. She said Fort Worth is the only city that still allows smoking in bars.
“Things have somewhat shifted, where we were the leader in our prohibition of smoking, we are now a stand-alone major city ... which carves out the exception for bars,” Lopez-Reynolds said.
Under the proposed ordinance, smoking would not be allowed even in outdoor patio areas within a bar as well as at private events held in public places. The council agreed to take up the issue of regulating e-cigarette and vaping shops at a later date.
“As few exceptions for carving out as possible is the position I would take,” said Councilwoman Ann Zadeh. “We need to make sure that there’s some kind of description in there that makes it so just a regular bar can’t set a box of cigars on the counter and call themselves some kind of cigar store.”
Said Councilman Dennis Shingleton: “I’m all for prohibiting smoking in public places, bars included, except those businesses that have cigars as a purchase of their product in the bar itself. I can think of two or three very close to the downtown area.”
To other council members, it did come down to public health concerns.
“When you take a look at the health effects ... who is there to protect [the public] but this council. This city has a responsibility to protect the public,” said Councilwoman Gyna Bivens.
In other action, for the next year residents holding garage sales will not be required to get a permit. But that doesn’t mean enforcement of the city’s ordinance governing garage sales is being dropped. Residents can hold only two garage sales a year.
The council agreed with the Planning and Development Department to a one-year trial period after hearing about how much time it takes to issue garage sale permits. If a resident calls and still wants a permit, he or she will be directed to the city’s website to apply for one.