Monday, February 25, 2008

Bars Turning To Theatre To Beat Smoking Ban

Bars Turning To Theatre To Beat Smoking Ban

DALBO, Minn. (WCCO) ― A growing number of bars are turning into temporary theaters to take advantage of a loophole in the smoking ban law.

The Dusty Eagle is the only bar in Dalbo. Since the smoking ban, business has gone down there 30 to 40 percent. The owners are trying something new to attract business. They're taking a cue from an old TV show to bring back some familiar faces. Last Saturday night, an actual local mail carrier was playing "Cliff Claven" from "Cheers".

Though there is some performance, no one there at "theater night" is a professional actor. For last Saturday night, the entire bar was being considered a stage and pretend "actors" were smoking as part of the "show". The Dusty Eagle is just one of the bars using "theater night" to get around the smoking ban.

Judy Cassman, the bar's owner, is quick to clarify her position.

"We're not trying to be vindictive, we're not trying to be sneaky. We're trying to draw some business and keep a family business going," said Cassman.

Earlier this month, a Northern Minnesota bar staged a "theater night" after discovering the Guthtrie Theatre's actors were allowed to smoke on stage.

Since then, other bars like The Rock Nightclub in Maplewood have gotten into the act. Smokers like Cathryn Lindgren jumped at the chance to smoke in a bar again.

"I really feel discriminated against. I really makes you feel like you're gum under somebody's shoe," she said.

"Private business is private business. America is free enterprise. I just think if they want to have smoking they should have smoking. If they don't, you know it should be up to each individual bar owner," added Gary Pischke, another smoker.

Smokers at the Dusty Eagle are hoping for a repeat performance.

Depending on how successful theater night is tonight, the Dusty Eagle may try it again. It may be just a matter of time before this act is shut down, along with the loophole in the law.

An attorney has launched the theater night campaign. He's been helping bar owners figure out the law, so they can organize their own smoking theater nights.

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