August 14, 2010 - A Health Department spokesperson tells us (the author) that according to section 17-503(c) of the Smoke Free Air Act, smoking is not permitted in the outdoor areas of restaurants unless: "1) the outdoor area has no roof or other ceiling enclosure; (2) the smoking area constitutes no more than 25% of the outdoor seating capacity; 3) the smoking area is at least 3 feet away from the non-smoking area; and 4) the smoking area is clearly designated with signage." When asked if the rule also applies to bars, we were told, "It applies to FSEs, so both." (FSE=Food Service Establishment) However, the spokesperson also told us that smoking and drinking is permitted in these outdoor smoking sections.
But it's not just smokers in bar backyards that are suffering; the Health Department is coming for the strippers too... in their dressing rooms: The owner of a gentleman's club in Astoria tells us, "The Health Department came twice in five days and didn't find anyone smoking, so they went downstairs into the stripper's dressing room, and by the back door they found an ashtray. We got a $200 fine for that. Everything's about stats, everything's about numbers. I understand we need law and order, but they find an ashtray far from where any customer is going to be and they slap a fine on us?
"I can't believe that if I own a bar I can't have a cigarette in my office. If you're paying five fucking grand a month in rent you can't go into your private office and have a cigarette? At my other bar in Manhattan we pay a grand a year to use the sidewalk for outdoor tables, and we got $500 worth of fines last year because you can't smoke outside. Why am I paying $9,000 for an outdoor section with tables so people can smoke, and then getting fined when they do?" It's almost as if the city is making more and more laws so they can collect more fines!
Health Dept. Cracking Down on Backyard Bar Smoking? by John Del Signore in Food, Gothamist.com, 8/12/2010.
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