Minnesota Anti Smoking Nazis Foiled...for now

Biff Hardslab

I have the t-shirt
Jan 15, 2007
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Minnesota Bars Beat Smoking Ban

Minnesota Bars Beat Smoking Ban
By GREGG AAMOT,AP
Posted: 2008-03-06 17:06:25
Filed Under: Nation News

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (AP) - All the world's a stage at some of Minnesota's bars. A new state ban on smoking in restaurants and other nightspots contains an exception for performers in theatrical productions. So some bars are getting around the ban by printing up playbills, encouraging customers to come in costume, and pronouncing them "actors."

The customers are playing right along, merrily puffing away -- and sometimes speaking in funny accents and doing a little improvisation, too.

The state Health Department is threatening to bring the curtain down on these sham productions. But for now, it's on with the show.

At The Rock, a hard-rock and heavy-metal bar in suburban St. Paul, the "actors" during "theater night" do little more than sit around, drink, smoke and listen to the earsplitting music.

"They're playing themselves before Oct. 1. You know, before there was a smoking ban," owner Brian Bauman explained. Shaping the words in the air with his hands, like a producer envisioning the marquee, he said: "We call the production, 'Before the Ban!'"

The smoking ban, passed by the Legislature last year, allows actors to light up in character during theatrical performances as long as patrons are notified in advance.

About 30 bars in Minnesota have been exploiting the loophole by staging the faux theater productions and pronouncing cigarettes props, according to an anti-smoking group.

"It's too bad they didn't put as much effort into protecting their employees from smoking," grumbled Jeanne Weigum, executive director of the Association for Nonsmokers.

The Health Department this week vowed to begin cracking down on theater nights with fines of as much as $10,000.

"The law was enacted to protect Minnesotans from the serious health effects of secondhand smoke," Minnesota Health Commissioner Sanne Magnan said. "It is time for the curtain to fall on these theatrics."

At The Rock earlier this week, a black stage curtain covered part of the entrance, and a sign next to it with an arrow read, "Stage Entrance." Along the opposite wall, below a sign saying "Props Dept.," was a stack of the only props needed: black ashtrays.

At the door was a printed playbill for that night's program, with a list of names of the people portraying bartenders and security guards. Playing the owner: "Brian."

Courtney Conk paid $1 for a button that said "Act Now" and pinned it to her shirt. That made her an actor for the night, entitling her to smoke. She turned in an understated, minimalist performance, sitting with cigarette in hand and talking to a bass player with the band.

"I thought it was funny that they found a loophole," Conk said. "I'm more of an activist-actor tonight, you could say. I think it's kind of this way of saying what we think about the ban."

While The Rock asks nothing of its actors by way of creativity, a few other bars have been a little more theatrical.

At Barnacles Resort and Campground along Lake Mille Lacs, a "traveling tobacco troupe" dressed in medieval costume on the first theater night. Mark Benjamin, a lawyer who pushed bars to exploit the loophole, wore tights, a feathered cap and black boots.

"Hey, I'm a child of the '60s. I can do a little improv," he said. His improv amounted to speaking in medieval character to other patrons.

In Hill City, Mike's Uptown owner Lisa Anderson has been offering theater night once a week. The bar had a Mardi Gras theme last Saturday, attracting about 30 patrons, most of them in costume.

"I was dressed in a Victorian dress with the old fluffy thing that weighs 500 pounds," she said. "We had some fairies and some pirates and a group of girls -- I'm not sure what they were, but they had big boas and flashy makeup."

Though there were no skits, Anderson said some people "start talking with different accents." She added: "It's turned into the funnest thing I can imagine."

One bar on northern Minnesota's Iron Range, the Queen City Sports Place, calls its nightly smokefest "The Tobacco Monologues."

Proving anew there's no business like show business, Anderson said her theater-night receipts have averaged $2,000 -- up from $500 right after the ban kicked in. Similarly, Bauman said revenue at The Rock dropped off 30 percent after the ban took effect, then shot back up to normal once the bar began allowing smoking again.

He and other bar owners said they plan to continue putting on theater nights.

"There's no question we were struggling," he said. "And we are extremely nervous that this is going to go away, and we will be back to the way it was."
Its about fucking time people started to stand up to the anti smoking Nazis. I quit smoking 5 years ago and I hate these laws. We have the same laws here in Illinois, except for the theater exemption. I wish restraunts and bars would start charging customers a "$1.00 Membership Fee" (which is deducted from the bill). That way they can label themselves a private club, no longer a public place, and be allowed to let people smoke if they choose to.
 

THE FEZ MAN

as a matter of fact i dont have 5$
Aug 23, 2002
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one of the loop holes in DE was for "privet" clubs, you pay 1$ at the door and sign a "membership" book. i dont know if they closed the loop hole but the cunt that runs the state was pissed that people didn't embrace her law..... fucking nazi's i cant wait till the next "health boogie man" i bet they decide to try and ban booze again before the end of my life
 
Jun 2, 2005
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Dallas
#3
At The Rock, a hard-rock and heavy-metal bar in suburban St. Paul, the "actors" during "theater night" do little more than sit around, drink, smoke and listen to the earsplitting music.

"They're playing themselves before Oct. 1. You know, before there was a smoking ban," owner Brian Bauman explained. Shaping the words in the air with his hands, like a producer envisioning the marquee, he said: "We call the production, 'Before the Ban!'"
I fucking love this guy.
 

dolemyte

Tiger = Wesley Pipes
Feb 27, 2008
1,725
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BX
#4
Fucking genious... I miss smoking and drinking in the city..although *cough cough* i've found places that look the other way
 

TheDrip

I'm bi-winning.
Jan 9, 2006
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#5
When CA banned smoking, one of the loopholes was that if the bar was owner operated, and the owner deemed it ok, they could still smoke. Mind you if the bar had one non-owner working there it was a no-go. So one bar owner near me gave each employee .05% ownership, making each of his 8 employees owners and thus making it an owner operated bar.....smoke on.

Funny thing was that every employee he had was already a smoker, so even if they didn't give a shit about smoking in the bar in the first place.
 

CLitton33

Registered User
Feb 27, 2008
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Campbell, MN
#6
I live in Minnessota and I DJ in a lot of bars. Well used to. This bullshit ban has destroyed my business. Luckilly I live close enough to ND and SD to make it still work.
 
Jun 2, 2005
15,516
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Dallas
#7
When CA banned smoking, one of the loopholes was that if the bar was owner operated, and the owner deemed it ok, they could still smoke. Mind you if the bar had one non-owner working there it was a no-go. So one bar owner near me gave each employee .05% ownership, making each of his 8 employees owners and thus making it an owner operated bar.....smoke on.

Funny thing was that every employee he had was already a smoker, so even if they didn't give a shit about smoking in the bar in the first place.
I seriously wish I had known where this bar was when I lived in California
 

Vic Mackey

Jay Marriotti is a heiney-bird
Jul 26, 2005
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Chicago, IL
#8
"It's too bad they didn't put as much effort into protecting their employees from smoking," grumbled Jeanne Weigum, executive director of the Association for Nonsmokers.

This bitch sounds like she would be a blast to handg out with. These people are insane, 99% of the bars in the state are probably smoke free. And I'm guessing that everyone who goes into the bars that found the loophole are smokers. It annoys me to no end these holier than thou non-smokers who get so upset if a few people find enjoyment in having a smoke indoors.
 

Jerry1

Megatron Star!
Jan 26, 2006
3,338
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Brooklyn, New York
#9
Enjoy it now. They even banned smoking in pubs in Ireland, despite the love of smoking over in Europe.
 

HummerTuesdays

Another girrrrl!!!
Apr 24, 2005
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On the road to ruin
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I still think it should be at the owner discretion. If the state wants to do anything, they should require better air filtration.