BUTTING OUT: How Bar Owners And Residents Get Screwed Because Of New Orleans Smoking Ban

New Orleans is a place for drinking, smoking and all-around leisure. But not for long.

Beginning April 22, the city’s sweeping smoking ban will be the law of the land, meaning businesses and bars will be mandated to prohibit smoking indoors. The plan first came to fruition thanks to New Orleans City Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell (D). From there, it was unanimously approved by the City Council and supported by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration.

However, though progressive lawmakers are excited about the new regulations, bar owners in the French Quarter and other parts of town are not too happy about being told what they can and cannot do at their private business.

In an article by the Gambit this week, bar owners from Pat O’Brien’s, Cosimo’s Bar and Buffa’s Lounge and Restaurant all spoke about their distaste for the city’s decision to pile on more business regulations and limiting business with what they can allow.

  In January, Cosimo’s owner Ray Hummel pleaded with Mayor Mitch Landrieu to veto the smoke-free measure, which had passed the New Orleans City Council. Hummel estimates 80 to 90 percent of his customers are smokers, and if Cosimo’s loses 20 percent in sales, he’ll be out of business. His plea, posted on Facebook, went viral.

“This is not a matter of smoking or non-smoking,” Hummel wrote. “This is a matter of CHOICE. Adult civil liberties CHOICE.”

A few blocks from Cosimo’s is Buffa’s Lounge & Restaurant, which allows smoking in its front bar but prohibits smoking in a back bar where there are tables, chairs and a stage that often hosts live music. Owner Chuck Rogers made the change to the back bar so Buffa’s would be able to accommodate smokers and nonsmokers — but on April 22, both rooms will have to be smoke-free.

“It’s something every bar in New Orleans is going to have to do,” Rogers said. “We’re in the same boat as any other bar. It was easy enough before the smoking ban. … We have the best of both worlds. We have that unique ability to do that. A lot of places don’t. Now that the city is making it mandatory… well, people will have to step out.”

“This shouldn’t be forced down our throat,” Pat O’Brien’s owner Shelly Waguespack told Gambit. “I appreciate the councilwoman’s energy and passion for this, but as businesspeople we have many other pressing things to worry about.”

Even with all of the outcry from the business community, Cantrell continued forward with her smoking ban and now businesses are bound to suffer the consequences.

For private business, and bars specifically, the smoking ban means giving up more power to the city. As if private business is not regulated enough, the smoking ban seeks to keep the city in control of every aspect of business, which is bad for business.

Business, though, is not the only entity getting screwed because of the smoking ban.

Residents who pay thousands and millions of dollars for their high-end apartments and houses in the French Quarter, where a majority of the most popular bars in the city are located, will now have to deal with an increased amount of tourists and bar-goers who have to now smoke on the sidewalk.

Because smokers will not be allowed to smoke indoors, they will simply take to the streets, leading to more and more individuals outside the bars, rather than in them. This will create more noise, which will probably eventually lead to Cantrell pushing a wide-sweeping noise ordinance.

Also, smokers who have to go outside to smoke will be more susceptible to street crimes while lighting up outside. When in New Orleans, it is usually the case that individuals want to get inside a bar as quickly as possible in order to avoid outside crimes like theft or violent crimes. However, this smoking ban is set to force individuals outside if they want to smoke.

All of this for the sake of “public health.” But, what is healthiest for the public, usually involves the city butting out.



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