LOS Angeles City Council is to reconsider its smoking ban in restaurants introduced last August, after a survey found eating-out trade had dropped by a quarter in many establishments.
The council voted last week to conduct a study of the policy, starting within a month. This will look at the economic impact of the ban and restaurateurs will be called to give evidence on its effects. The city is the largest in the USA to have introduced a ban.
The previous week a survey by the San Francisco-based Charlton Research Company reported widespread discontentment at the ban among Los Angeles restaurateurs.
Of the 300 people polled, more than half said business had dropped by 24%, or $11,113 (about £7,600) per month. One in six restaurateurs said they had laid off staff as a result.
But councilman Marvin Braude condemned the survey as containing no commercial analysis. His aide, Glenn Barr, told Caterer three university studies in the past two years had contradicted the survey's findings.
"The historical evidence is that when you analyse sales, smoking bans have no effect on business," said Mr Barr. "The worst evidence you can use is anecdotal."
Councilman Richard Alatorre orginally voted against the ban and last week voted in favour of examining its effects. His aide, Bonny Brody, told Caterer the City of Los Angeles was just one of about 90 cities in Los Angeles County, all of which had different regulations. Nearby Beverly Hills and Burbank had no smoking restrictions, so many Los Angeles customers simply ate in their restaurants.
"We've been through such a bad recession that losing three or four meals a day means a serious loss of business," said Ms Brody.
The fresh controversy came as the US Government's Labor Department proposed banning smoking in work places across the country. It is believed that the move, which if passed would not come into effect for about two years, could effectively ban smoking in restaurants and bars, as well as in hotel rooms while workers are present.