Hundreds of people were caught breaking Ottawa’s harsher smoking ban in its first year, with the ByWard Market the most frequent location for infractions.
CBC News has learned through an Access to Information request the city reported 583 violations of its new ban on smoking outdoors at restaurants, bars and patios starting in April 2012.
Eighty-one of those violations came in the ByWard Market, with York Street (26 reported) and Clarence Street (20) the two worst areas.
"I could understand, based on the concentration of patios and of restaurants and bars in the Market, that we’d have the most infractions," said area councilor Mathieu Fleury.
"You’ll always get that five per cent, that one per cent that’s problematic; in most cases we have no issues."
Most of the violations were for weekdays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., from April to September.
Restaurants can get associated with violations by non-customers
The restaurants with the most violations outside of it were the Brig/Armada Lounge on York Street with four, the Earl of Sussex on Sussex Drive with three and Garlic Corner on Dalhousie Street, which is now a 3 Brothers shawarma restaurant, with three as well.
"It’s news to me, especially considering some of them were when we weren’t even open," said Dan Maron, chef and manager of The Brig — referring to the fact people could be smoking outside without being a customer.
Maron said their biggest challenge with the new bylaw is keeping track of smokers going in and out of the bar while they still have tabs open.
He said the bylaw can also be news to tourists.
"The only people that seem to find it odd are when tourists come to visit from other countries, they find it odd that they’re not allowed to smoke outside," he said.
No-smoking zone problem for crowded Market
Ottawa city council passed the harsher smoking ban in February of 2012, banning smoking on outdoor patios, city-owned beaches and parks and any festivals held on city land.
Anyone smoking on a patio can be fined $305, while any business found to be allowing smoking on its patio can be fined $255.
The bylaw technically applies to an area four metres from a business’ door, which Maron said is an issue in the crowded Market.
"If you go four metres out our door you’re then within four metres of our neighbour’s door, and their neighbour’s door," he said.
"It really limits where people can smoke… Generally (you’re only allowed) in the street or in front of a closed business."
No fines reported, just warnings
After the Market, other locations highlighted by the city include Bank Street with 48 violation reports, Preston Street with 25 and Elgin Street with 21.
That busy April to September span includes the warning period, which began April 3, and the enforcement period that began July 3.
The city said they have collected no fines from smoking on an outdoor patio.
That means all violations covered under this period were warnings.