Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Queer Clubs Fear Impact of D.C. Smoking Ban

(Link) With nanny states (and cities) banning indoor smoking, bars fear for the future: a sudden drop in patronage, hordes of drunken dyke smokers hovering on the sidewalk outside, the cost of replacing the cocktail peanuts with bowls of Nicorette and Skoal Bandits.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
From Washington Blade

A gay nightlife advocate predicted a smoking ban bill approved by the D.C. Council on Dec. 6 would have a “dramatic and devastating” impact on gay bars and nightclubs.

Mark Lee, who operates the weekly gay bar event Lizard Lounge, wants the Council to reverse its action, predicting that large numbers of gay bar and nightclub patrons who smoke would likely stay away from these businesses as a result of a smoking ban.

“Gay and lesbian nightlife establishments have indicated that, if this bill were to become law, the affects on those businesses would be dramatic and devastating,” Lee said.

But members of a coalition of gay health advocates that includes the Whitman-Walker Clinic and the Mautner Project for Lesbians with Cancer disputed the prediction, saying the legislation was needed to protect the health of both gay and straight restaurant and bar patrons, including people with HIV.

The Council voted 12-1 to give preliminary approval to a bill that would ban smoking in all bars, taverns, and nightclubs except cigar bars by January 2007. The bill, the Department of Health Functions Clarifications Act of 2005, also would ban smoking in all restaurant dining areas as soon as the bill became law, which could come in early 2006.

The Council is expected to give final approval to the bill in late December or early January.

The bill includes language similar to a New York state smoking ban law that provides a possible exemption for businesses that can demonstrate a severe economic hardship. Councilmembers supporting the bill said they would develop specific language spelling out how and when such an exemption could be invoked before they give final approval to the legislation.

Gay D.C. Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large), who chairs the Council’s Committee on Health, is credited with playing a key role in advancing the bill after Councilmember Carol Schwartz (R-At-Large) blocked similar smoking ban legislation for more than two years.

Schwartz argued that a smoking ban would harm the city’s hospitality industry, which generates much of the city’s tax revenue, and was the sole dissenting vote.

Mayor Anthony Williams said he shares Schwartz’s concerns about the impact on city businesses. As of late this week, Williams said he was undecided over whether he would veto the legislation. However, the Council’s lopsided approval indicates enough support exists for the two-thirds majority vote needed to override a mayoral veto.

Councilmember Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) joined Schwartz in voting for a substitute bill that required bars and nightclubs to install smoke filtration systems to avoid having to ban smoking. That measure lost by a vote of 11-2.

A separate amendment introduced by Barry to exempt taverns and nightclubs from the bill lost by voice vote.

Gay activist Peter Rosenstein, who is part of the gay coalition supporting the bill, said gay bars and clubs in other cities and states with smoking bans have not been harmed by such legislation. He noted that a Delaware smoking ban has not hurt bars in Rehoboth Beach, a Delaware resort community popular with gays.

“The bars in Rehoboth are doing fine,” Rosenstein said. “It didn’t impact, and I think it won’t impact in D.C. in any major negative way.”