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Ped Mall businesses want smoking ban

BY NICOLE KARLIS | NOVEMBER 11, 2009 7:20 AM

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Boutiques in the Pedestrian Mall are looking to move loiterers out of the area — and another smoking ordinance could be the solution.

Iowa City business owners, such as Ritu Jain and Catherine Champion, are asking the Iowa City City Council to consider expanding the smoking band throughout the Pedestrian Mall with the hope that it would push the groupies hanging around the area to another part of town.

The owners think a smoking ban from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. could change the behavior, and they presented their idea to the council at its Nov. 2 meeting.

At the meeting, councilors said they were willing to consider the proposal at a work session after Jan. 1.

“We’ll give it a further look,” said Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey, noting the consideration will be examined by a council with new members. “So it’s going to be interesting to see how people approach this.”

The City Council first considered a panhandling ordinance in March 2008. The consideration was put on hold after concerns arose about Dance Marathon’s late-night funding strategies.

Jain, the owner of Textiles Inc., 109 S. Dubuque St., said she’s seen the Ped Mall crowd change in the past decade, and the smoke lingering into her store has put off customers.

“So often we have to close the door,” Jain said. “It’s a deterrent that way.”

But some feel the actual smoke isn’t the issue.

Champion, the owner of Catherine’s, 7 S. Dubuque St., and Cheap and Chic, 105 S. Dubuque St., said she thinks the real problem is the crowd that hangs outside.

“People don’t want to be around what’s going on in that part of the Ped Mall,” Champion said.
Champion said she thinks smoking restrictions in the area could help “edit the negative behavior.”
“I want the Ped Mall to be cleaned up; it deters people,” she said.

While the possibility of expanded smoking restrictions is only in discussion-level, Iowa City already has a ban on certain parts of the Ped Mall.

The City Council passed a ban in October 2008 that reaches from Linn Street to the fountain outside of the Sheraton, 210 S. Dubuque St.

The decision came after state legislators passed the Iowa Smokefree Air Act in the spring of 2008, which banned smoking in most public places, including restaurants and bars.

Despite the gradual change to remove butts from the streets, workers at businesses such as the Tobacco Bowl, 105 S. Dubuque St., said their establishment hasn’t been affected from past alterations to the rules.

“We’ve never seen any change in business related to any legislation that has happened locally or in Iowa,” said employee Luther Moss.


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