Demethrus Edmonds of Lewiston enjoys a cigarette outside the Lewiston Public Library on Lisbon Street on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The City Council will hold a workshop next week on extending a smoking ban to a section of downtown Lisbon Street.

The workshop at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, will be the same night elected officials will hold a final reading on a similar ban affecting city parks and recreational areas.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit smoking on Lisbon Street sidewalks between Adams Avenue and Main Street. While the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting has not been finalized, city administration confirmed Wednesday that the discussion will be included.

Michael Dostie, owner of J. Dostie Jewelers and board chairman of the Downtown Lewiston Association, said Wednesday that the downtown association is helping get the word out to fellow business owners regarding the workshop and potential ban.

The association sent an email Tuesday to members stating that the proposal “is due to the requests from a number of businesses on Lisbon Street who are having regular issues with individuals or groups of people smoking outside of their entryways.”

He said small business owners downtown have been discussing the issue for at least two years, with some routinely dealing with secondhand smoke and cigarette butts strewn at storefronts. He said a community meeting of business owners took place more than a year ago, with an unnamed business promising to “self-monitor” the situation. But, he said, it has continued to be an issue for many.

“These are just small business owners trying to make a living, who want safe streets that are welcoming to visitors and families,” he said. “Clouds of secondhand smoke wafting into businesses is not business-friendly.”

Dostie said months prior to the city’s action to ban smoking in all city parks, he worked with Healthy Androscoggin to draft an ordinance focused on the downtown. When he discussed it recently with city staff, they suggested modifying a city ordinance already on the books, which prohibits smoking on the public rights of way near St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center.

That ordinance language states, “Smoking and all other use of tobacco products, including vaping and e-cigarette use, will not be permitted on certain designated public rights of way, including public streets and sidewalks, with the exception of the use of such products by occupants of motorized vehicles traveling through the designated area.”

The updated ordinance would simply add downtown Lisbon Street to the ordinance language.

Dostie said after he found out about the discussion regarding Dufresne Plaza, it made sense to bring the business district proposal forward while councilors were already deliberating the issue.

While Dostie said he personally polled roughly 20 business owners regarding support for such an ordinance, with a large majority in favor, he pressed that the Downtown Lewiston Association is not taking an official position on the issue.

“We want to help make sure that the process is transparent and that all potentially affected business and building owners have the opportunity to be heard,” he said.

The association email urged members to attend the workshop in order to “garner feedback from businesses and building owners who would be affected.”

According to Dostie, the city is also notifying all business owners within the affected area.

Last week, during a first reading of the ban in parks, one resident questioned the enforceability of such an ordinance. The resident, Lyanna Hawkins, said the city already has difficulty enforcing its ordinances.

David Dubord, a downtown building owner who originally brought the issue to the council, said several other Maine municipalities, including Brunswick, have banned smoking in downtown shopping areas in addition to parks.

The fine structure for the parks ordinance will be set at $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for a third.

Dostie said Wednesday that longtime Lewiston residents always reminisce to the city’s “heyday,” when downtown was a “shopping mecca.”

“If we ever want to get back to that we need to make sure it’s business-friendly,” he said.


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