Drop the Cigarette! A Smoke-Free NYC

By Christine Haughney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 6, 2003

Marjorie and Corey Jonas treated themselves to a three-hour dinner last Sunday and, for the first time, the longtime patrons of New York's Telephone Bar & 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 Telephone's bar, they conceded that 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. . . . Personally, I prefer to go home smelling like a person than an ashtray."

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.

Though officials say they won't officially start issuing fines until May 1, 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. So before packing those Marlboro Lights for a big-city weekend, here's what every social smoker and pack-a-day puffer should know:

• Beware of hotel policies. Visitors can still smoke in hotel rooms approved for smoking, but the activity is limited elsewhere. For instance, the historic 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, the hotel's director of sales and marketing. The Algonquin, she noted, has added ashtrays outside of its entrances for people to throw out their cigarettes.

• Know 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.

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