Smokers don't have to rush to find an ashtray when they spot a Menlo Park cop. At least, not yet.
That's because the city is starting over in revising an ordinance that would greatly restrict smoking within Menlo Park's borders, after city management realized it could have an even broader impact than intended.
After the City Council gave preliminary approval to the ordinance at its March 2 meeting, City Attorney Bill McClure said the city realized that the ordinance might have several "unintended consequences." For instance, people could interpret it as restricting smoking on sidewalks and in parking lots outside businesses, raising questions about whether smokers would have anywhere to go for a cigarette break.
And some restaurateurs, including the proprietors of the British Bankers Club and the Oasis, complained that the ordinance wouldn't allow customers to smoke on their patios -- or, for that matter, on sidewalks or parking lots outside the establishments. Businesspeople feared that might have smokers bypassing Menlo Park for Redwood City or Palo Alto, Mr. McClure said.
"Are we basically saying that smokers are not welcome to frequent dining establishments in Menlo Park?" he asked. "There was no real discussion of some of these topics by the council.
"Our sense was, we need to take a step back and look at some of these provisions, to make sure we come forward with an ordinance that is carefully worded to say what we intend it to say, and that some of these other implications are considered carefully by the council before it adopts something."
Councilman John Boyle was the lone dissenter in the original vote, saying he didn't think the city had thought the ordinance through. He said in an interview that he was glad the city has decided to take a step back.
The approval process will now start over. The council will introduce and discuss the revised ordinance at one public hearing (tentatively scheduled for May), and could adopt the law at a subsequent meeting. The council was originally scheduled to adopt the ordinance at its March 23 meeting.
A previous story about the smoking ordinance cited confusion about whether the council had voted to allow people to smoke on the patio outside Knickerbockers Cigars, an activity the ordinance would have otherwise prohibited. The council did indeed grant Knickerbockers an exemption, according to Mr. McClure.