Montgomery Co. Council bans outdoor smoking at most bars and restaurants

In a unanimous vote, the Montgomery County Council voted Tuesday to ban outdoor smoking at most bars and restaurants.

The ban on smoking on patios and other outdoor areas attached to bars and restaurants also extends to e-cigarettes and vaping.

Exceptions, however, would apply to those with outdoor balconies and rooftop serving areas.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who had sponsored a similar bill, is expected to sign the bill into law. It would go into effect 90 days after being signed.

Smoking inside bars and restaurants has been prohibited in Montgomery County bars and restaurants since 2003.

Councilmember Evan Glass explained his own conflicting feelings over the bill when first proposed, saying his mother had been a lifelong smoker.

“My mother died at the age of 53 because of lung cancer, so I understand the impact that smoking has — on all of us,” he said.

But Glass added that he had been a supporter of promoting Montgomery County’s nightlife economy, and that included supporting businesses that have smokers among their most-loyal customers.

His personal preference, he said, would be to continue patronizing non-smoking venues — and that’s his choice. “For those who want to have thriving nightlife and smoke and hang out with their friends, that is their choice.

“And I think this bill strikes a balance.”

The balance, Glass said, comes in the form of the exceptions written into the bill. In addition to rooftop and balcony seating, outdoor smoking sections at golf courses are also not affected.

The president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, Ginanne Italiano, said the bill is not everything the chamber had hoped for: They wanted restaurants that already provide outdoor smoking areas to be grandfathered in. But “at the end of the day, this is a great compromise,” she said.

“This is a great deal that the council members were able to work with us.”

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