By Lauren Choo
ALTHOUGH Monash City Council found a loophole in the statewide smoking ban, many business owners at Oakleigh’s Eaton Mall have voiced concerns that businesses might still be negatively affected.
According to Monash Council’s August bulletin, the smoking legislation coming in effect would still allow smoking in public outdoor areas where drinks and snacks are served if the area is less than 75% enclosed.
This loophole allows cafes and restaurants to convert their outdoor areas to drinking areas instead, where people can smoke while having a drink.
However, business owners disagree and stated this loophole would not take away the negative impact the ban would have on businesses.
Mr Chris at Restaurant With No Name (Oakleigh) said the ban would cause the number of regular customers to “drop drastically”.
“Due to the fact that a lot of our customers who do come, do smoke,” he said.
“And to that effect, if they do ban it, they probably won’t come anymore.”
Ms Connie at Kentro Oakleigh expressed similar concerns and said businesses would “lose out”.
“The thing is, people might still come for a coffee, or a drink, but they won’t be eating, so, I mean, we’re going to be losing out, aren’t we,” she said.
Mayor Geoff Lake said Council would prefer for the State Government to “take the lead” on this issue.
“If we haven’t heard anything positive from the government by the start of next year, then we will get stuck into planning how we will roll out our own powers to make these outdoor dining and eating areas totally smoke-free,” he said.
But Mr George at Yefsi Souvlaki Bar & Café (Oakleigh) said most business owners would rally against the smoking ban.
“I think most of the traders in Eaton Mall will be against it,” he said.
“Because at the moment there is a choice for people to come and sit inside or outside.”
Monash Council have not had a response to the letter sent to the Minister of Health Jill Hennessy, which advocated for a comprehensive ban on smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas.
Cr Lake said Council remains “very concerned” the legislation might fail to meet the expectations of the Monash community and Council.
“It allows for this legislation to be exploited so that second-hand smoke will still pervade through outdoor areas where families are trying to safely enjoy a meal,” Cr Lake said.
Although Victoria has banned smoking around schools, hospitals, courts and police stations, it will be the last state to impose the ban on outdoor dining areas.
Quit Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria, the Heart Foundation (Victoria) and AMA Victoria has made a position statement recommending priority to address this loophole as well.