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Smoke Free Al Fresco in Discovery Bay

See a letter sent to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department before this article was written: Water Margin OSA (Outdoor Seating Area) Air Quality and their reply here: Objection Against Outdoor Smoking in Discovery Bay Restaurants

Published in the SCMP on the 25th of November 2007:

Disco Bay eateries feel anti-smokers’ wrath

Barclay Crawford

Anti-smoking campaigners have vowed to continue their action against the popular al fresco dining area Water Margin in Discovery Bay if restaurants do not stop smokers lighting up.

Restaurant owners say lobby group Clear the Air’s stubborn stand – the group has refused to negotiate on the issue and did not inform owners before appealing against their licences – is against the wishes of residents and if successful would see 150 jobs lost.

But the group says it has the law on its side and will keep the pressure on until restaurants ban smoking in outside dining areas.

Clear The Air contacted the Sunday Morning Post after learning that residents had managed to stop restaurants above Kowloon Station opening outdoor dining areas.

The group objected to outdoor seating licences for the Water Margin restaurants to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department on the grounds that smoking in outdoor venues was “an environmental nuisance” to workers, passers-by, children and non-smoking patrons.

“It’s unacceptable that people should be smoking in that area where there are so many children,” James Middleton, from Clear the Air, said last week. “We will drop our objection if they ban smoking.”

But Greg Walker, the manager of Koh Tomyums, said restaurateurs were considering legal action against Clear the Air.

Mr Walker, who said he was forced to close a Wan Chai restaurant after revenue fell when the government banned smoking indoors this year, said the group was twisting regulations to achieve its aims.

“We really object to the way this has been done. They don’t come to us first, they just complain about our licences,” he said. “We would rather approach this in a low-key way and have patrons ask to move if someone is smoking, or ask the smoker to sit somewhere else. We don’t want social change done on our bill.”

James Norton, a regular at Hemingway’s, said Clear the Air was out of step with the rest of the community in Discovery Bay. “They are zealots and most of us do not welcome their behaviour and actions either here or in the rest of Hong Kong,” he said.

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