NY City - gets tough with clubs that do not enforce the smoking ban..

January 27, 2010 - A recent New York Times article indicated after six years after New York City passed a ban (2003) on smoking in bars and restaurants, it is easier than ever to find smokers partying indoors like it’s 1999, or at least 2002. (Blowing Smoke at a Ban by DOUGLAS QUENQUA, 12/31/2009)
Published: December 31, 2009

Now the New York City Health Department may close A-list clubs which flout the city's smoking ban. It may be closing time for some of Manhattan's hottest nightclubs, where the young and hip are arrogantly flouting the city's smoking ban.

The Health Department is moving to shutter five A-list clubs after an undercover sting showed they let their high-flying clientele light up inside again and again.
The velvet-rope violators include TheBox on the lower East Side and Chelsea's M2 Ultra Lounge, which just last week hosted Sean (Diddy) Combs' blowout bash for his son's 16th birthday, officials said.

The clubs are scheduled to appear today before a city tribunal, where officials will try to yank their food and beverage permits - a fatal blow that would put the kibosh on alcohol sales. The move is by far the city's most aggressive attempt to crack down on bars and clubs that turn a not-so-blind eye when their customers crave a smoke.

"We looked at our data and felt like these businesses continue to flaunt that they break the law," said Daniel Kass, acting deputy commissioner for environmental health. "They pay fines as a cost of doing business. We needed a new approach." Kass dispatched teams of sharply dressed spies to the clubs, where they nursed drinks - and looked for smokers. "We went out and stumbled upon some pretty flagrant disregards for the law, and decided we weren't interested in settling with these establishments," Kass said.

After the ban was implemented in 2003, bars busted for smoking were fined $200 to $2,000.

Not this time. A city judge will decide whether the Health Department has enough evidence to pull the clubs' permits for "willful and continuous disregard" of the ban. "We think we have a good case," said department lawyer Thomas Merrill. "I think we will shut them down."

Other clubs on the hot seat are The Imperial in the Flatiron District, Southside Night Club in Little Italy and Lit Lounge in the East Village. A handful of others will be named by the city in the coming weeks.

The most egregious offender is M2 Ultra Lounge, the department said. Undercover inspectors found dozens of smokers in plain sight during five recent visits - and even bathroom attendants selling loose cigarettes for $2. "The cigarettes are out in the open, you just have to ask for one," said one inspector. M2 Ultra Lounge owner Joey Morrissey said he gains nothing by having smoking in his club and has tried everything to stop it except take away cigarettes or toss out offenders.
"We can kick them out, but we would be kicking people out all night long and starting altercations," Morrissey said. "You don't want to risk having fights."
Morrissey said the city can do more to help, like ticketing people who smoke at the club instead of punishing the establishment. "You're not going to find someone in a club this big," he said of the 35,000-square-foot space.

Other owners simply denied that smoking goes on in their clubs or said they would not comment on the issue. "I think this is a witch hunt and there are a lot more things that affect our city than people occasionally lighting up," said Southside owner Tom Martignetti. The club's Web site has several pictures that seem to show clients smoking at the bar. "Obviously we have a no-smoking policy," Martignetti said. "There's no smoking here."

Why can't a city like Galveston, Texas enforce their city's no smoking ban??

Reference: Health Dept. to yank permits of nightclubs that scoff at New York City's cigarette smoking ban by Samuel Goldsmith (sgoldsmith@nydailynews.com) with Michael J. Feeney, New York (NY) Daily News, 1/27/2010.

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