With 2 1/2 weeks to go, businesses still not sure how smoking ban will work
By Frank Norton
With a state constitutional ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces set to take effect in a little more than two weeks, landlords and tenants are still unsure exactly what they must do to comply.
The law, passed last week by the Legislature, takes effect July 1. It states that proprietors of enclosed businesses must have policies and procedures for dealing with the new regulation and replace any smoking signs with no-smoking banners.
But building and business owners say they are unsure what or who is a proprietor and what defines an enclosed workplace.
"It's fairly complex," said Kerri Barsh of law firm Greenberg Traurig's environmental department. "It's also a pretty short turnaround for proprietors that need to bring themselves into compliance."
An enclosed workplace, according to the legislation, is where at least one person works and is surrounded by physical barriers, Ms. Barsh said. While that part of the law is easy to grasp, legal exceptions remain ambiguous, she said.
Exceptions, as defined by the law, include private, non-commercial residences; retail tobacco shops; designated smoking rooms at lodges; and bars where food sales comprise less than 10% of revenue.
Three state agencies - the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco and the Department of Health - have rulemaking authority, although enforcement details are unclear.
South Florida restaurant, bar and nightclub owners are also among those trying figure out how to comply but not alienate smoking customers.
"I'm mostly concerned about the international traveler that loves to smoke and doesn't understand our smoking laws," said Stuart Blumberg, chief executive of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association. "We want to see a lot of places protected for smoking like Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road, Las Olas, the pool decks."
The association will sponsor a seminar on the issue at 2 p.m. June 24 at Fontainebleau Hilton Resort.
Greenberg Traurig and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Miami-Dade also will co-sponsor an educational seminar on compliance measures for building owners, managers and tenants later this month.
The association thinks that business owners, not landlords, are responsible for policing the ban, said Murray Greene, the association's president. "The landlord may be responsible for buildings, but the tenants are the proprietors of their workspaces and have control of their employees."
Ms. Barsh, however, disagreed. "Responsibility will fall on the owner of the building, but it could also include the tenant."
The authoritative state agencies have not ruled on the definition of a proprietor nor issued guidelines for determining what is an enclosed workplace.
Ms. Barsh said businesses have been left to determine on their own whether they can legally allow smoking in open-air malls and outdoor dining areas.
Hotel association seminar details: (305) 531-3553.