Coffee chain’s smoking ban no big deal here

The intellectual debates can stay, but the smoking has to go.

Starting last week, Starbucks patrons no longer are able to smoke within 10 feet of the front door, a nationwide extension of the mega-chain’s previous rule that disallows any smoking within the building.

But the ban doesn’t mean a change to California residents, where more restrictive state laws are already in place.

“We adhere to the state laws, which is 20 feet from the entrance,” said Kimberlee Wheeler, who works as a shift leader at Peet’s, another coffee chain shop in downtown Chico.

Wheeler said the customers at Peet’s are familiar with the law and will move to accommodate both the rule and the other patrons who are sensitive to smoke.

“Our customers are pretty respectful,” she said. “It’s pretty rare that we have to say anything to anyone.”

Other coffee shops say much the same thing, or they won’t really enforce the rule unless another customer complains.

“There’s no smoking on the premises, but we’re not going to tell them that,” said Matt Long, manager of the Dutch Brother’s coffee shop on Cohasset Avenue in Chico. “The customer’s always right. If they’re gonna smoke, we’re gonna let them.”

Starbucks customers seem to be largely thankful for the ruling. Dorothy Churchill, who has been smoking for nearly 20 years, pulled out a cigarette outside of the downtown location on Wednesday but didn’t light it. She said that because there are older patrons who might be on breathing machines or can’t handle heavy smoke clouds, the rule is fair.

“It’s their right,” Churchill said of the corporation. “They pay the city to use the sidewalk.”

Mamie Bronson, also of Chico, was enjoying a cup of coffee inside the downtown Starbucks last Thursday and said that it “reeks” when she brings her kids with her.

“It’s like you have to smoke a pack just to get in,” Bronson said.

Raul Raygoza, a public health education specialist with the Butte County Public Health Department, said business operators have the right to “create their own policy” when it comes to smoking outside of the building. Current policies really only address “enclosed areas,” he said. An enclosed space is defined as a space with four walls, a ceiling and floor.

“It’s not about telling people they can’t smoke,” Raygoza said. “It’s about clearly defining where it’s allowed.”

As owner of another local coffee shop, The Naked Lounge, Chris Pendarvis said he wishes people could smoke inside his coffee shop too, and that he’s worried about where the regulations on smoking will stop.

As for health concerns, Pendarvis believes people should be allowed to smoke outdoors, regardless of proximity to a doorway. “Can someone eat a Big Mac in front of their front door?” he said, joking that it was just as bad for them as smoking.

“If the public doesn’t want to come here, they don’t have to,” Pendarvis said of his own policy. “Doesn’t (Starbucks) have enough to worry about? Like making coffee?”


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