- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2003

NEW YORK Bar and restaurant owners worried that this city's new smoking ban will cost them money are trying to marshal support for a court injunction to block implementation of the measure in a little more than a week.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's "administration claims that 80 percent of the population doesn't smoke, and so it will help business," said David Rabin, owner of the trendy Lotus Club and the Union Bar. "Our response is, if that's true, why hasn't anyone opened a nonsmoking bar."
Mr. Rabin said the smoking ban is not likely to kill his restaurant, but that it will hurt the neighborhood. He noted that residential units are often situated above restaurants.
"New York is different form other cities," said Mr. Rabin, who also is president of the New York Nightlife Association (NYNA). "We stay up until 4 a.m. and 99 percent of the noise is related to the street. We're going to be forcing them to go to the street to smoke. Noise is the number one problem."
The new law, which goes into effect March 30, outlaws smoking in bars, restaurants, private clubs, sports arenas, office buildings and auditoriums. It will affect about 13,000 establishments not covered under a previous law that allowed smoking in bars and restaurants with fewer than 35 seats.
The only places smokers will be allowed to light up are cigar bars open since December 2001, some owner-operated bars and nonprofits with no employees. Restaurants with outdoor areas can set aside a quarter of that space for smokers.
The mayor, a former smoker and tobacco-hater, plans to strictly enforce the measure. His administration announced that a dozen enforcers, or "environmental technicians," will be out issuing tickets to violators, who will be fined $200 to $2,000.
Richard E. Farley, an attorney for the Players Club, said he is working toward building a coalition to challenge the law, possibly eight to a dozen private clubs.
"It will take a lawsuit," he said, adding that as the ban relates to private clubs it is "hopelessly overbroad" and not related to the purported reason for which it was passed: the protection of employees.
"The employee doesn't even need to be in the building," said Mr. Farley of Cahill, Gordon & Reindel. "It could be an accountant in Santa Monica and we e-mail him the books."
Rob Bookman, counsel for the NYNA, said the group may fight the ban on the grounds of environmental impact. He cited speculation that some restaurants will hire vans and buses to idle in front of their establishments for the comfort of smoking patrons.
Mr. Rabin, among other large business owners, expressed sympathy for smaller establishments, such as neighborhood Irish bars and tavern owners, "places where people come in and have three Buds and a cigarette." The Lotus Club is known for its "fashionista crowd," an amalgam of the fashion and media sets.
"We won't take it. There are smokers who won't be treated like sheep. We're going to go where we're welcome," said Audrey Silk, founder of NYC CLASH. (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment).
Miss Silk, who is a police officer in Brooklyn's 67th precinct, said she and about 50 other smokers will spend the first day of the ban puffing away at Frankie and Johnnie's Steak House, a former speakeasy, in Hoboken, N.J. "We're stressed out with war and the economy. This is the worst time for this," she said. "Bloomberg has killed our spirit. Our motto is, 'Don't spend your money where you can't smoke.'"

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