- The Washington Times - Monday, January 1, 2007

Grumbling smokers in the District of Columbia yesterday said they were considering their options about frequenting their favorite nightspots as they braced for a citywide workplace ban on smoking in bars and nightclubs that takes effect today.

“I generally have a problem with prohibition,” said Farrel Lever, 34, an independent filmmaker from Philadelphia, as he held a cigarette in front of the Diner restaurant at 2453 18th St. NW. “I think it’s fascist.”

His only alternative, he said, was to “smoke outside.”

The D.C. Council approved a ban on indoor smoking a year ago. It took effect in restaurant dining rooms in April. The expansion of the ban to bars and nightclubs is the last phase.

Other smokers in Adams Morgan were unwilling to tolerate the ban without looking for options.

Andreas Serafini, a Manassas auto technician, said he might avoid bars and restaurants in the District.

“I’m probably going to end up more in Virginia,” said Mr. Serafini. “It’s more convenient.”

Virginia does not have a similar workplace smoking ban.

The Maryland suburbs of Montgomery, Prince George’s and Howard counties ban smoking inside bars and restaurants.

Balazs Czifra, a Web designer in the District, said he might seek out bars that accommodate occasional smokers like him during the winter months.

“There are some places that are going to have heat lamps outside,” he said.

At the Black Cat nightclub on 14th Street Northwest, owner Dante Ferrando organized a “Smoke Night” yesterday for smoking customers to get together for one last evening of puffing.

Bar and restaurant owners and managers said they must enforce the smoking ban, despite complaints from customers.

“I don’t think it will hurt the business,” said Jacquie Chauvet, manager of La Fourchette restaurant at 2429 18th St. NW.

However, the risk to her business was not her main complaint.

“The point is you are in a free country, and that’s not freedom,” she said.

Unlike some of the patrons at bars and nightclubs where he plays the drums, Chilly Willy Vasquez welcomes the ban.

“It’ll be healthier for me now,” he said as he sat on a park bench in front of Madam’s Organ bar and restaurant on New Year’s Day.

“I’ve got my respiratory problems like everybody else.”

He said he sometimes would realize the effects of secondhand smoke only after he arrived home from his job.

His children would say, “Hey, you smell like cigarettes.”

Hernando Cano, bartender at T.S. Muttly’s tavern at 2427 18th St. NW, said few of his customers complained about the ban.

When the city of Miami, where he used to live, enacted a smoking ban, bars and restaurants hardly noticed a difference, he said.

“Maybe initially, but not too much,” he said.

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