Second only to "last call, Ms. Handler," it's the most common refrain among bar and club owners: "Smoking bans hurt business."
As a non-smoker, I love being able to come home after drinks without stinking like Patty Bouvier, but bar owners have claimed that indoor smoking bans, where they exist, have driven away a percentage of their business. A regular at the aptly named pub Cutting Edge, in Barnsley, England, studied the two-year-old ban and found a loophole: If smoking is conducted in the name of research, it can be done indoors.
So last week, the pub's owner (non-smoking, but pro-choice) opened a "smoking research centre" where patrons can simultaneously have a beer and a cigarette. All they have to do is fill out a legal questionnaire about their smoking habits first, mostly to satisfy the requirements of the letter of the law.
In Britain, the pub industry has claimed that some 2,000 establishments have shuttered because of the ban (although personally, I think other health-conscious trends in society have contributed equally if not more). The Cutting Edge hopes that the (maybe not) legal smoking area will set it apart from its competition and keep it in business.
It's an old trick. In North Carolina, you'll find places that won't serve you booze unless you're a "member," which is just a way of getting around prohibitionist rules and state-controlled liquor sales.
The smoking prohibitionists will be sure to choke off the research loophole in Britain, but isn't it inspiring when someone who feels wronged by the law turns finds a way to turn the rulebook against itself?
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