Quebec bar owners threaten to sue over proposed ban on smoking on patios
Robert Labelle, right, smokes a cigarette as his friends Gilles Garand, left, and Michel Casey, centre, look on on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)
Lia Levesque, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, August 18, 2015 12:55PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 18, 2015 3:23PM EDT
MONTREAL -- The head of a group of bar owners has threatened to take legal action if Quebec goes ahead with legislation to ban smoking on outdoor patios.
In May, the governing Liberals tabled Bill 44, which would put an end to smoking on patios a decade after Quebec first prohibited smoking inside eating and drinking establishments.
The president of the bar owners' organization has warned that forbidding smoking on patios would be "disastrous" and result in a drop of 10 per cent in business.
"Right now, there's no problem, nobody is complaining," Peter Sergakis told a Montreal news conference Tuesday as public hearings into the proposed legislation began in Quebec City.
"If somebody doesn't like the smell of the smoke, he moves to (another) table."
Sergakis added that some smokers will even leave a patio and go out into the streets to partake.
"It's more risky staying in the corner where the trucks and the buses pass by," he noted. "The results are worse than being on a patio."
Sergakis offered what he called a solution: dividing a patio into two sections, with one for smokers and the other for non-smokers.
He suggested the two be separated by about one and a half metres so the smoke could dissipate.
Without such government concessions, the province will be looking at legal action, Sergakis warned as he took a swing at the Couillard government.
"They have no respect for the industry and we employ hundreds of thousands of people," he said. "For them, we are nobody."
Provincial legislation to ban smoking inside restaurants, bars, indoor workplaces, public places, bowling alleys and bingo halls was enacted in May 2006.
Sergakis claimed that it prompted a 25 per cent drop in business and that the restaurant industry never recovered.
Sebastien Senechal, the group's lawyer, said what saved bar owners a bit at the time was the fact smokers could still go out on patios to get their fix.
But the proposed legislation would change that.
"We think we may see a decrease of 10 per cent (in business) -- maybe more, maybe a little less -- but it's going to be something like that," he said.
Senechal argued there is no reason for the government to intervene.
"The government never showed us any studies showing that there is a potential risk for the health of the non-smoker in this kind of environment," he said. "We think they are not allowed to intervene and impose the law in this kind of circumstance."
Ontario banned smoking on all restaurant and bar patios as well as playgrounds and publicly owned sports events as of January 2015.