January 27, 2007

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes Again

The Platters. I did a post with the title of the tune before I discovered the joy that is Youtube. It's such a nice tune (plus I did a gig with them once & they're really nice guys) that I couldn't resist a chance to link to a vid of the tune. So here it is (& here are the lyrics). Nice vocals, decent orchestration, memorable melody & a nice bridge. The subject matter wasn't anything new when it was written in the 1930's (a guy loves a girl yet loses her) but it's one of the saddest yet sweetest tunes (lyrically as well as musically) that I've ever played, to the point of being almost timeless (imho). Besides, how more title appropriate can I get around here?

Freedomsight takes to task a Rocky Mountain News article about Colorado's smoking ban "loopholes":

"...God forbid that the working stiff in a neighborhood bar can light up while having a beer, even if that bar qualifies under the letter of the law."

Go read his thoughts.

(This will be a long ranting fisk. Just so ya know.) From the article Freedomsight discussed:

"How can taverns circumvent the state's smoking ban? Try exploiting a loophole that bears Groucho's marks."

The writer, Bill Scanton tries to be witty. Tries.

"Dozens of taverns in Colorado are allowing customers to smoke in hopes a legal loophole will be wide enough to keep their defiant strategy from backfiring."

Actually I'd assume they're allowing customers to smoke because they want to have enough customers to stay friggin' open.

"When the statewide smoking ban became law on July 1 of last year, the exemptions included casinos, certain airport lounges and an exclusive category called 'cigar bars,' intended as a nod toward such high-end establishments as Churchill Bar in the Brown Palace Hotel.
But now all sorts of bars - including strip clubs - that sold a lot of cigarettes before the ban say they are meeting the letter of the loophole: that they qualify as cigar bars."

Loophole: something the user of the word dislikes that's legal because a law wasn't drafted in draconian enough terms.

"The Colorado Indoor Air Act says that if establishments prior to Dec. 31, 2005, got 5 percent of their total revenues - or more than $50,000 - from the sale of tobacco products, they would qualify as cigar bars exempt from the ban.
The exemption was intended to accommodate places such as Del Frisco's Cigar Lounge, with its walk-in humidor."

Scanton seems to be arguing that the exemptions to the law should only apply to the more upscale joints in town. It's easy to see which side of the class war he'd take isn't it?

"But nothing said the tobacco revenue had to come from cigars, so tavern owners are scouring receipts to see if they sold enough cigarettes to qualify for the exemption."

K, I'm failing to see what's so damn scandalous here.

"The Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance has a list of 47 businesses statewide that have been the subject of complaints for allowing smoking, with many of them seeking cigar-bar status, Executive Director Kim Hills-Evans said."

Kim Hill-Evans - head snitch. I hope like hell she's hitting the bars a few nights a week & droppings $20's as tips to make up for the business that her kind have run off from those public houses.

"The first case decided in court will be Orio's Roadhouse in Durango, which expects a ruling the week of Feb. 2. Among the questions that case will answer is whether an establishment needs to have both a humidor and 5 percent of its revenues from tobacco to be exempt." (emphasis in original)

I hope they do meet the exemption simply because I hate to see a bar lose as much revenue as they will if they have to prohibit smoking.

"Some Denver-area bars are waiting for clarification of the law, while others are presuming they do meet it while they wait.
Many have already filled out the forms, cobbled together by district attorney's offices and city attorneys, to try to prove they deserve the exemptions."

If I'd have known the language of the ban I'd have bought cartons from the bars I used to frequent. But the ones who are assuming they meet the criteria of the exemption are taking a big risk, & I admire them for it.

"Anti-smoking advocates say the law intended narrow exemptions. They've found a sympathetic lawmaker in freshman Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, who has introduced House Bill 1108, which would close the loopholes that are allowing some tavern patrons to smoke."

A Republican. Tell me again why they're better than Democrats? & again see the previously listed definition of "loophole".

"But another bill would allow 'mom-and-pop' bars to pay an extra $500 for their liquor licenses in return for letting patrons smoke. Several powerful state lawmakers oppose that bill."

So it's a choice between banning smoking in the exempted bars or extorting them so they can not lose revenue. In the long run that $500 will be worth it but it's still extortion.

"Hills-Evans hopes Roberts' bill will become law and keep the language requiring establishments that think they might qualify as cigar bars to get a certificate."

& I hope that Hills-Evans never finds convenient parking again, especially when she has to use the bathroom.

"An accountant would look at the books to see if they qualify,' Hills-Evans said. 'Then, if a patron calls the police about smoking and the police come, they'll look for the certificate. If it's not there, they'll get cited."

If it was my bar that patron would get a first class introduction into the world of being thrown out of a bar on his ass. & I sincerely hope that posters of Hills-Evans as well as Roberts get distributed so bar owners statewide will know not to serve them should they ever walk their statist asses into a bar.

"District attorneys around the state are frustrated at the smoking ban's vagueness. The statute doesn't have a reporting requirement, so the burden might be on prosecutors to prove that the taverns that claim an exemption don't deserve it, DA's say.
They're hoping that bills being introduced now will clarify some tenets of the law, making it easier to enforce - whether or not the net results of the law are more smoking or less smoking in bars."

As Jed said these guys are basically whining about having to do their jobs. If "innocent until proven guilty" is too much work then maybe they should go into another field. & I can recommend a few in California where they could start right away. :)

I've said before that the ban has really hurt revenue at the bars. But the freakin' article includes the following:

"Billy's Inn
4403 Lowell Blvd., Denver
Owner: James Von Feldt

Business is down substantially, and Von Feldt doesn't have the records to show that he earned 5 percent of revenues from tobacco prior to the deadline set by Colorado's anti-smoking law. So no smoking in Billy's, as of yet.
'My revenues are down 41 percent,' Von Feldt said. He has laid off two people and now opens the bar himself seven days a week.
'I do all the janitorial work myself, too,' he said.
'With all the snow, I couldn't afford to hire anyone to plow it, so I do it by hand.'
Von Feldt said, 'We still get the same crowd, but they just don't stay as long.
In this kind of weather, who could stand outside and smoke a cigarette?"

41%? Can you take a 41% hit in your gross income & stay in the line of work that you're in? & these assholes like Hills-Evans are insisting that no place should allow smoking for health reasons. Any idea what a 41% drop in income does to your stress level? I guarn-damn-teeya itís a more concrete health risk than anything the wide world of junk science has come up with concerning second hand smoke.

"He is a member of the Stop the Bans coalition of tavern owners, and he says 20 bars have closed since the ban began on July 1.
Von Feldt said he had an offer of $825,000 for his bar in 2005, but the best offer last year was $650,000.
'I've already lost $175,000. But legislators aren't concerned about my losses. They're only concerned about my employees' health,' he said."

20 bars closed in a little over 6 months.

But no; the legislature isn't concerned with anyone's health. That's just the excuse they use. What they're concerned with is exercising control.

The article goes on to list two other Denver bars that still allow smoking. As you can imagine they're both real worried about the loss of revenue that would result if they have to prohibit smoking.

I've bitched about the smoking ban before & unless it's lifted I'll likely do it again. In principle it's an affront to any notion of Lockean based property Rights but I generally stick with the pragmatic arguments. Why? Because if it was just the principle of the thing I'd only be pissed that I couldn't smoke when I hit the town & that it'd be an erosion of a line the state shouldn't cross. Worth bitching about all on their own, but nothing will piss you of like being hit in your wallet.

I could be working at least 2 or 3 if not 4 nights a week as a musician. I'm not because I won't play for under a certain amount. Since the ban kicked in all the offers I've had (save two that didn't pan out) have been for $50 a night or lower. If you're unfamiliar with the music biz I'll gladly explain that it's a regional market but there's no excuse for making less than $80 a night per person in each band around this town. I was making $50 a night back in the late 80's. Back then I could live off of that. Today I can't.

It's very simple: if a person does not wish to be in a smoky bar then they can either not go into said bar or they can try to persuade the owner to prohibit smoking voluntarily. If the owner wishes to allow or prohibit smoking it should be his decision, not the stateís. Rant all you wish about the dangers of second hand smoke but the bottom line is if you are too afraid to wander into a blues dive because of the smoke & the studies you believe then maybe blues isn't your bag. Perhaps a nice polka would suit you better. Or maybe a drum circle.

But what has happened & is happening is that bars are losing a lot of business cause smokers don't go out as often or for as long since they can't smoke. I used to go out 3 or 4 times a month at least. Since the ban I've been to bars 5 times - & bars are where I have to go to look for work!

It really ticks me off to see articles like this one that seem to push for a tightening of the laws even though the article clearly showed examples of bars being opposed to the ban because of heavy revenue losses. 20 bars closed in under 7 months, with employee cut backs at the ones who've remained open. That's not counting the bars that have cut back on bands or stopped having bands altogether. I wonder if the legislature got an accurate number of bar & bar related employees who wanted to risk being unemployed to have a smoke free environment?

My ranting aside what will happen this year is the Colorado legislature, in its infinite asshattery, will attempt to clairfy the smoking ban in some way. In other words they'll make it worse. I'd almost hope that he courts would offer some relief but I'm afraid I'm not that naive.

Posted by Publicola at January 27, 2007 11:37 PM | TrackBack
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