Whyte Avenue, downtown businesses divided about changes to smoking rules

Business owners in one of Edmonton’s most popular entertainment districts appear to be evenly divided about possible changes to the city’s smoking bylaw.

The proposed public places bylaw recommends smokers stay at least 10 metres away from doors, windows and patios. 

The current bylaw requires smokers to stay at least five metres from building entryways.

The city must have a bylaw when marijuana becomes legal Oct. 17 and council is looking at making the rules the same for tobacco and cannabis.

City council is expected to vote on the bylaw at a meeting next week, and on Wednesday held a public hearing at its community and public services committee meeting.

Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said the area’s 700 businesses are split about 50-50 on what the distance should be.

She spoke about the unique nature of the area’s hospitality industry.

“It’s an important part of our economy on Whyte Avenue,” Klassen told councillors. “We can’t ignore that we do have a smoking population.”

Klassen noted that the core area between Calgary Trail and Gateway Boulevard has little room between entryways. 

Entertainment areas are just that – entertainment areas– Ian O’Donnell, Downtown Business Association

“There’s probably no spots in that strip that someone could even safely smoke and be close to an ashtray with a 10-metre separation.”

Klassen said it’s “perfectly justifiable” that the majority of business owners want to create healthy, smoke-free environments for customers, but noted the area’s nearly 100 restaurants and bars draw patrons who smoke.

“We do want to be a welcoming environment,” Klassen said. “It’s not that we’re a pro-smoking district. We just have to recognize the variety and diversity of our patrons and making it accessible for everybody.”

Ian O’Donnell, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, thinks the five-metre separation is sufficient.

“Entertainment areas are just that, entertainment areas,” he said. “If you can’t do that [smoke] in an entertainment area, where can you do it? Are we going to push them into parks? The back alley?”

O’Donnell acknowledged the downtown business community is also divided.  

“Smoking is a divisive issue,” he said.

The proposed bylaw would also restrict tobacco and cannabis smoking from city parks that have children’s amenities, such as playgrounds or sports fields.

Medical health officer Gloria Keays said Alberta Health Services would prefer the city ban cannabis smoking from all public places, including sidewalks.

“So, of course, if the choice is between five metres and 10, we would prefer 10 metres.”

She said when environmental restrictions have been put in place before they have made a positive difference. 

Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, recommends the city keep the five-metre rule for smokers.

“Businesses have actually found that their traffic goes up,” she said. “Because more of the non-smoking population, the wealthier and larger part of the population, is inclined to come into the business. Because there’s not odour, there’s not having to walk through a cloud of smoke.”

Coun. Scott McKeen asked Klassen what the city could do to help businesses adjust to the new rules if the 10-metre separation rule is approved.

Klassen recommended the city put up more signs, move ashtrays and do an education campaign for business owners and patrons “to help them comply and adjust.”

An online city survey done between July 25 and Aug. 1 showed that  68 per cent of the 8,700 respondents supported the 10-metre separation rule.

Canvassing the business community between July 25 and Aug. 15 yielded only 79 responses, 53 per cent of those favour the 10-metre distance.

A city report included comments from business owners in favour of the increased separation.

“As I have at least one staff member with a (verified by her doctor) severe cannabis allergy, I am concerned about second-hand smoke impacting vulnerable staff and customers,” one commenter wrote.

“I don’t think that we should have to be exposed to second-hand smoke just because we work on the Avenue.”

Klassen said there wasn’t much time to get feedback from the business community. Normally it would take months to get responses.


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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.


Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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