Leave your opinions at home
After months of sometimes (OK, usually) heated discussion about the new ordinance banning smoking (and vaping) in nearly every bar in New Orleans, the law is set to take effect at midnight tonight, and the city has launched a web page to explain it all.Read the rest of that Gambit post for those things you need to know. I will mention a few of the items listed though. First, although the ban goes into effect tonight, there is still a slim chance that it will be undone by a last minute lawsuit filed by Harrah's last week. We'll know more about that after a month but don't expect much to happen. The smoking ban is here and it's here to stay.
The group Smoke Free NOLA will celebrate and take a victory lap with a free "Smokefree Kickoff" free music show tomorrow night (April 23) at Le Bon Temps Roule with Paul Sanchez, Deacon John and other musicians.
Here's what you need to know before tomorrow
And, as we've said previously, that is a good thing. The core issue at hand here is basic workplace safety. Employers should not be allowed to require their (already poorly compensated) workers to expose themselves to hazardous conditions. Maybe the ban seems weird to you because it runs counter to the city's "notoriously freewheeling and fun-loving" reputation but you will just have to get over that.
On the other hand, the law does come with some potential negative externalities that bear attention in the future. The most serious is the way it might combine with the sound ordinance to create "nuissance bars" where previously there were none... and then shut those bars down. The Snake and Jakes owners express such concerns here.
Snake and Jake's, however, is a different story.Will we trust the city enforcement agencies to be understanding of the difficult position they're putting neighborhood bars in? Not. One. Bit. But this is really a separate issue from whether or not the smoking ban is a good idea. It's just something we'll have to watch now.
"I have nowhere to tell people to go outside to smoke," Clements said. "People tell me, 'It's no big deal. They can just go outside.' My bar gets busy from 2 in the morning until 7 or 8 in the morning, and I'm in a residential neighborhood. Even in the backyard, there are houses that butt right up there. It might be fine for Carrollton Station, which has a back patio. For me, it's going to be a real problem."
"The locals, they're going to respect our neighbors," Rogers said. "When we have tourists in town ... those locals are going to remind people, if they get a little bit loud, to keep it down. They'll police themselves quite a bit. If that doesn't happen, we'll take steps to make sure people are aware."
Bars labeled a "nuisance" are subject to heavy fines and penalties from the city's Alcohol Beverage Control Board, and the Landrieu administration has cracked down on them several times during the mayor's two terms in office. A 2012 press release from the city boasted that while only 32 violations had been prosecuted in 2009, "due to a successful commitment to better enforce nuisance establishments, 287 prosecutions have occurred since the beginning of 2011."
Speaking of watching. There is also this.
Check the fine print on these signs. They enlist you, citizen, in the state's network of informants. It will be incumbent upon you, in your vigilance, to notify the authorities about the naughty behavior of your neighbors. You are even encouraged to take pictures (!) and send them in to a city department via the 311 system.
You might imagine this could lead to some bad things.
Anyway, enjoy your smoke-free future, New Orleans. On balance, it's a good thing. Still, we might have difficulty.