NEWS

Bar owner says Quebec bill banning patio smoking will hurt business

05/06/2015 03:42 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - One Montreal bar and restaurant owner predicts that business will drop by as much as 15 per cent if Quebec goes ahead with a plan to ban smoking on outdoor patios.

The governing Liberals tabled Bill 44 on Tuesday, which would put an end to smoking on restaurant and bar patios a decade after Quebec first prohibited smoking inside eating and drinking establishments.

Peter Sergakis, who owns 40 establishments in the Montreal-area, said the new rules will result in clients opting to stay home at a time when business is already slumping.

"The consumer has no money and instead of going to bars and restaurants two or three times a year, they're going once because everything is so expensive," Sergakis said.

"With no smoking on patios there will be even less people coming."

The bill also revamps Quebec's tobacco legislation by having electronic cigarettes under the same rules as other tobacco products and increasing fines.

Flavoured tobacco would also be outlawed as would smoking in a vehicle if someone under 16 is present.

The last time Quebec tightened the rules was in 2005, when it banned smoking indoors, leading to municipalities to permit smokers to light up outside on patios.

Anti-tobacco groups argue that the smoke from outdoor patios often ends up back inside bars and restaurants.

Sergakis said he doesn't believe smoking outdoors is a problem and several smokers and non-smokers interviewed on a patio Wednesday expressed similar views.

Michel Caissy, 63 and a non-smoker, said the bill won't affect him but believes people are entitled to their freedom.

"There are people who smoke on terraces, there's wind, the air circulates and I don't think we should harass people too much with that," Caissy said.

Gilles Garand, 64, a former smoker with lung problems, supports the bill but says smoke doesn't bother him when outdoors.

"I have friends who smoke and when it's outside, it's OK and I can deal with it," Garland said.

Robert Labelle, who has been smoking since he was 17, said smoking outdoors doesn't disturb anyone.

Labelle, 62, adds the new rules aren't likely to change his smoking habits.

"I'll just go home and smoke," he said.

Sergakis said if smoking kills 10,000 Quebecers a year, as the government suggests, it should move to ban cigarettes altogether.

Sergakis, a former smoker himself, added that is an unlikely scenario given the tax revenues cigarettes generate for the province.

"They cannot say it's a legal product, make money ... and tell people as long as you use it, it's going to kill you," he said.

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