City splits vote on smoking lounges


Courier Editor

ALAMOSA — In a 4-2 vote Wednesday night Alamosa city council approved an ordinance providing for smoking lounges.

No one is currently seeking to bring a smoking lounge to Alamosa, but the city council wants to be prepared for such an application, should the need arise.

Alamosa City Attorney Erich Schwiesow reminded the city council that when a hookah lounge operated in Alamosa, the city had no provision for such a business, so it legally operated as a private club, with memberships available at the door. Smoking is not allowed in public places and would be prohibited in a business like a smoking lounge if the city did not make provision for such businesses in its ordinances.

Councilmen David Broyles and Michael Carson voted against the ordinance permitting smoking lounges in the city, while Councilors Kristina Daniel, Liz Hensley, Jan Vigil and Mayor Ty Coleman voted for it. Councilman Charles Griego was absent and excused from the December 5th meeting.

“Personally I am against having smoking lounges,” Broyles said. He said he was concerned about the youth in the community.

Broyles asked what the ramifications would be if the city council did not adopt the ordinance. Schwiesow said if the council did not adopt the ordinance, the city would not have smoking lounges. Someone who wanted to open such a business would have to go through the same type of “contortions” the hookah lounge went through to get around the prohibition, namely operate it as a private club requiring memberships for admission.

Under the new ordinance, a smoking lounge would be permitted in zones where taverns and bars are also permitted. There would be some restrictions such as ventilation requiring that the smoke from the lounge would not go outside the lounge; no one under age 18 would be permitted; and the lounge would not be closer than 500 feet to residentially zoned districts, schools, parks or other smoking lounges.

“I think this is very straightforward,” Councilman Vigil said. “I think we need to do this.”

The ordinance approved on Wednesday also brought the city’s ordinances in compliance with Colorado Clean Indoor Act provisions. The city had permitted smoking in taverns, but state law prohibits it. The ordinance also specifies no smoking within 25 feet around public buildings, a greater distance than the state permits (15 feet), which would be the default distance if the city did not specify something else.

No one spoke during the city’s public hearing on the ordinance Wednesday evening.