BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — Yard House Boca Raton’s bizarre “smoking friendly” policy may violate Florida’s Clean Indoor Air Act while exposing unsuspecting patrons, may of whom are small children, to cigarette smoke.
Yard House — owned by Orlando-based Darden (NYSE:DRI) is a Mizner Park restaurant popular with families with small kids eager to eat outside to enjoy the gorgeous Florida weather.
But the outside eating area — which is covered completely by a roof and several side walls — is also an unmarked smoking area. There are no signs warning guests that their meals may be interrupted by smokers intent on delivering second hand smoke to kids with sippy cups.
General Manager Karol Acosta Sunday night used the term “smoking friendly” to describe the outside eating area.
“If families don’t want smoke,” she stated, “they’re welcome to eat inside.”
Florida law states that a restaurant’s patio is only exempt from smoking bans if more than half of it is open air. The calculation is made by measuring how much of the patio is covered by a roof and walls. Yard House Boca’s patio is completely covered by roof, while its side is completely blocked by the restaurant itself — suggesting that Yard House may be in violation of Florida’s Clean Indoor Air Act.
Yard House’s owner should be well versed in the law. Darden Restaurants — which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze and other well known names is based in Orlando.
Florida law prohibits local police departments from enforcing Florida’s restaurant smoking ban. It was unclear Sunday night if any complaints had been filed with state investigators against Yard House, or whether investigations had previously been conducted.
It was also unclear how or why Darden Restaurants, a publicly held company that has built its brand on family-friendly restaurants — would term any part of its establishment as “smoking friendly,” especially during peak family eating hours.
UPDATE: 10:09a Monday, December 8th: We are awaiting information from the Florida Department of Health concerning Yard House’s history in Boca Raton, if any.