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NEW YORK City's smoky bars are no more



Published: Sun, April 20, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



New Yorkers are debating whether the smoking ban will hurt or help business.

WASHINGTON POST

Marjorie and Corey Jonas treated themselves to a three-hour dinner recently and, for the first time, the longtime patrons of New York's Telephone Bar & amp; Grill were actually able to smell their pub grub. Then they lingered over drinks to celebrate the city's new smoking ban.

"Yeeaaahhh -- no more smoke," cheered Marjorie Jonas from her bar stool in the East Village joint. "I've never been able to see from this end of the bar to the other."

As the Jonases nodded at the empty stools lining the bar, they conceded the ban may keep some regulars away -- and catch unwary travelers to the city off-guard.

"The hard-core smokers will really be [upset] for a few days and say, 'I'm not going to eat. I'm not going to drink,'" said Corey Jonas. "Then they'll get hungry and thirsty."

Bartender Jodi Sacks said she lived through a similar smoking ban in Boulder, Colo., and is confident the regulars will return. "If anything, it would be temporary," Sacks said. "Personally, I prefer to go home smelling like a person than an ashtray."

Ban goes into effect

New York's smoky-bar era drew to a close March 30 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg struck smoking from the city's Saturday night peach martini and sling-back chair equation. Smoking was already banned in most workplaces, but the latest law extends to bars, restaurants and hotel lobbies. The only exceptions are a few cigar bars and membership clubs with no paid employees.

While some bars and restaurants still appear to have their share of inhaling offenders, that could change shortly. Spots caught with smoking customers face fines starting at $250 and the loss of their food licenses; a number of smaller bars say the fines could shut them down.

Officials say they won't officially start issuing fines until May 1. But many establishments say they're already dealing with overzealous health inspector fines, quadrupled fees for having outdoor cafes, and dance police ready to fine bars without cabaret licenses where customers make the slightest illegal wiggle.

And come July 24, New York becomes the third state (after California and Delaware) to adopt a statewide smoking ban. Here's what every social smoker and pack-a-day puffer should know:

UBeware of hotel policies. Visitors can still smoke in rooms approved for smoking, but the activity is limited elsewhere. For instance, the historical Algonquin Hotel in midtown no longer permits smoking in its bar or outside any of its meeting rooms.

"People know they can smoke outside of the building," said Christina Zeniou, director of sales and marketing.

Where it's allowed

UKnow where you can -- and can't -- smoke. The ban doesn't apply to cabs and sidewalks, and customers can smoke in outdoor cafes as long as the smoking area takes up a quarter of the seating area.

"It's terrible," said artist Patrice Lerochereuil, 46, who reluctantly finished off his daily cigar at Finelli's Cafi in SoHo on Day 1 of the ban after the bartender said she could be fired for his smoking. "I will still smoke in my place, on the street."

Blocks away at the more subdued Cub Room restaurant and bar, manager Tim Carosi said the adjustment has been smooth. Instead of hanging up "No Smoking" signs, employees are personally asking customers not to smoke. Carosi rebutted concerns that customers may order fewer drinks because they can't have that final smoke.

"We were joking, it's possible people may eat more," he said.

USearch out the exceptions to the rule. Depending on when they opened and the percentage of business derived from the on-site sale of tobacco products, some cigar bars are exempt from the ban, such as the Oak Bar at the Plaza Hotel and Club Macanudo on the Upper East Side. Circa Tabac, a SoHo cigarette bar, hosted a "Smoke 'em if you got 'em!" party and started plans to update its ventilation system, said co-owner Lee Ringelheim.

Know ahead of time

UCall ahead to avoid surprises. Many bars known for a "cigar-friendly" atmosphere, like Morton's of Chicago, don't meet the exemptions. Cibar, a Gramercy Park martini lounge once known for cigar smoking, now allows smoking only in its garden.

UBrace yourself for a pricey cigarette tax. A new tax enacted last summer has driven up prices to more than $5 a pack -- and $7.50 isn't uncommon.

Even some nonsmokers worry about how the ban will transform the city.

"Now New York is, like, nerdy," said filmmaker Coan Nichols, 31, lingering at the smoke-free Old Town Bar in Union Square with his wife and buddy. "When you're in a bar, it's going to be like California. All the action is outside."

XFor more information about the ban, check the New York City Department of Health's Web site at www.nyc.gov/html/doh /home.html.




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