Ottawa's Smoking Ban makes impact on Gatineau's bar scence

The City of Gatineau is once again forced to react after the Ottawa city council approved a motion, 21-2, to ban smoking in bar and restaurant patios. Beaches, playgrounds and parks among other locations will also become smoke-free after Canada Day.

“It is only a matter of time before a similar law is ushered into Gatineau’s City Hall,” said Éric Gaudreault, owner of Le Troquet – Bar and Bistro, which has two patios.

This seems like a déjà-vu for bars and restaurants owners in Gatineau, specifically for bars in le Vieux-Hull. On August 1, 2001 the City of Ottawa’s Smoke-Free Public Places and Workplaces Bylaws prohibited smoking inside bars and restaurants and in all workplaces and enclosed spaces open to the public. Yet, smoke still filled the air in bars and restaurants across the river, until May 2006. “It’s been there done that,” admitted Éric Gaudreault, referring to the 2001 anti-tobacco laws in Ottawa.

“There will definitely be an impact, more people will come to Hull,” admitted Gaudreault, “but it will not create line-ups or anything like that,” when asked if more people will end up in old Hull to light up. Frank Oliva, who worked as a bartender in Ottawa for over 5 years, agrees with Gaudreault. “People from Ottawa will definitely cross the river, especially on sunny days,” said Oliva, who worked at the DiESEL nightclub and the Earl of Sussex, which boasts one of the biggest patios in the ByWard Market.

While the number of smokers may rise in bars and restaurants in Hull during the summer days, Gaudreault isn’t getting too anxious. “I won’t be taking measures to prepare ourselves for having more clients,” said the owner of the Le Troquet. However, he does worry about a related problem. “A younger crowd does make its way here and hopefully they won’t be too much trouble on the patios,” added Gaudreault.

As for Oliva, he worries there will be too much smoke in the air, literally. “I think a majority of the people going to Hull will be smokers and it might make the patios too saturated with smoke,” said Oliva. “A few smokers on the patios aren’t a problem, but when there are a lot of smokers it gets unpleasant,” added Oliva.

In 2003, following Ottawa’s example, Gatineau had asked the Government of Québec to ban smoking in public places. With Gatineau city councillor Pierre Philion fighting to stop smoking on patios in Gatineau, it will not be surprising if they make a similar request. “Ottawa is usually the first to take decisions like this and if the law works why wouldn’t Gatineau follow suit?” said Oliva. The City of Gatineau will not be able to enforce similar laws until the province grants them permission since the public health is in the hands of the provincial government.

If a similar law passes in Québec, smokers might just transform their apartment and patios into smoking lounges and invite their friends over. “Due to the social aspect, I think people will always go out to bars,” said Oliva. “However, big smokers, those who don’t just smoke socially, might be tempted to stay home.” If you plan on turning your living space in a smoking lounge don’t be shocked to see your face become Jackie Child’s case.

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