Confusion Over New York Cigar Bars
With the clock ticking down to a March 30 indoor smoking ban in New York City, the prevailing haven for cigar smokers to light up will be in the city's cigar bars. But what exactly is the definition of a cigar bar in Gotham?
Here's what we found out.
For a bar to qualify as a cigar bar, it must have been opened for business prior to December 31, 2001; must generate a minimum of 10 percent of its revenue from the sale of tobacco products, or renting of tobacco products and devices (this would include humidified locker storage, but not vending machines); and must generate 60 percent of its revenue from the sale of alcohol. These conditions are derived directly from the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the governing arm that will be enforcing the new law.
Despite several erroneous press reports to the contrary, the precise number of cigar bars in New York City is unknown. Establishments wishing for smoking immunity have until September 26 to apply for registration as a cigar bar. According to Nancy Miller, the director of the tobacco control program for the health and mental hygiene department, applications will be processed faster if received by June 30. Establishments seeking exemption may then be asked to provide past tax returns, their liquor license, documentation on tobacco sales, and even the architectural plans of the location. At press time, it was unclear whether bars that had applied for cigar bar status - or intended to - could allow smoking without facing fines or other penalties.
At press time, no application for exemption was available. Final regulations for the law, entitled the New York City Smoke-Free Air Act of 2002, will not be forged until after the last public hearing, which was scheduled to be held today. After the hearing, the legal counsel for the health department will finalize the law's regulations.
"The guidelines are very clear," said a spokesperson from the health department. "But the law will not be legally defined until after March 7."
A printable application for exemption from the ban will be available on the health department's web site, according to Miller. Presently, the site provides a host of information about the law.
Regardless of the uncertainty for existing Cuban cigars bars, the law takes effect on March 30.
Sunday, March 30, 2003