Netherlands - small bars/cafes with no staff could be exempt from smoking ban..

May 13, 2009 - A Dutch (Netherlands, Holland) appeals court ruled Tuesday, May 12th that small bars (apply to all small cafes and bars that employed no staff) with no staff except their owners are exempt from a national smoking ban introduced for the hospitality industry last July 2008. The appeals court of Den Bosch, in the southern Netherlands, found two owners of the Victoria cafe in Breda, near the Belgian border, not guilty of having contravened the ban. "The court finds that the (ban) is partly non-binding, as it lacks legal grounding" regarding establishments with no staff, said a court statement.

But its application was frozen by an announcement by prosecutors that they intended appealing the verdict in the Supreme Court. This could last 18 months. Court spokesman JJ van der KaadenKaaden: "Today's decision will not be formal until confirmed by the Supreme Court."

"This is a huge boost for (small establishments) to get back to business," said Joris Prinssen, a spokesman for industry association Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, in reaction to the judgement. Prinssen said there were some 9,500 bars in the Netherlands, of which 3,000 employed no personnel.

The owners of the Victoria cafe were first acquitted by a lower court last month, escaping prosecution demands for a 1,200 euro (1,600-dollar) fine and closure for a month. The prosecution appealed the finding. The cafe is run by the owners with no other employees. In February, the owners of a cafe with no employees in the northern Dutch town of Groningen was fined 1,200 euros in the first-ever trial involving a breach of the Dutch smoking ban. An appeal in that case is pending.

A recent Dutch health ministry study found that 62 percent of Dutch cafes saw a drop in business in October and November 2008, compared with a year earlier, on account of the smoking ban.

The House of Representatives in the Dutch parliament asked Tuesday for a new debate on the smoking ban.

Reference: Small Dutch bars cannot be held to smoking ban: appeals court, Agence France Presse (AFP), 5/12/2009.

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