Restaurant owners and managers who knowingly allow patrons to smoke outside may one day be held liable.
On Tuesday, November 27, the City Council continued an agenda item to ask the City Attorney to draft an amendment to Santa Monica’s outdoor smoking ordinance that would “create liability for business owners and managers who knowingly allow smoking in outdoor dining areas.” The quoted language is from City Attorney Marsha Moutrie’s memo to the Council recommending that the Council “give direction” on such an amendment.
That memorandum reported that staff had received “numerous complaints” of continued smoking in outdoor dining areas and that “some restaurants knowingly allow these violations to occur.”
The outdoor smoking ordinance was last amended one year ago this month, and extended the smoking ban from beaches and parks to include bus stops, theater lines, the Third Street Promenade, and any “non-residential location where food or beverages are served by a business or routinely consumed by customers.”
Penalties are only provided for persons violating the ordinance by smoking. Businesses cannot be cited under the law, but “business owners are expected to request that their customers follow the law – as with similar laws for indoor smoking, fighting, and disturbing the peace,” according to a statement made by the City Attorney’s Office last year. That expectation has not been uniformly honored, as the police department issued 19 citations to smoking restaurant patrons in the first eight months of this year, according to the Moutrie memo.
The City specific item continued by the Council Tuesday does not itself impose liability on business owners and managers; it simply would make a formal request that the City Attorney prepare such an ordinance for later City Council consideration.