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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You Can Smoke 25 Feet from the Door—Even if You’re Inside

posted by on June 10 at 14:23 PM

Check this out: An Olympia bar owner, Frank Schnarrs, wound up in court for allowing a “private” smoking area inside his bar. He’d contended that since patrons paid a dollar to get into a second-floor room where servers claimed to be volunteers, it wasn’t a workplace under state law—but a private club—thus exempting it from the indoor smoking ban. Well, the judge called that a “smokescreen,” but that’s not the end of the story.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks left the door open for Schnarrs to comply if Schnarrs were able to build an indoor designated smoking area using health criteria on par with outdoor smoking rooms created by other bars.

Under the law, a designated smoking area must be at least 25 feet from any doors, windows or ventilation units that would allow secondhand smoke to pollute nonsmoking areas. Schnarrs’ attorney, Shawn Newman, said Hicks’ ruling recognizes the ambiguity of the state law and so leaves the door open for Schnarrs to come up with a solution.

Darrell Cochran, Thurston County senior environmental health specialist, testified that a hallway to Schnarrs’ second floor was at least 25 feet from the first floor. However, Cochran said he had not measured any of the second-floor windows or air intake and exhaust units.

I’m waiting for a call back from the Attorney General’s office, which is trying to find out whether Schnarrs has found a loophole in the smoking ban. If he has, opening the smoking den will still be like trying to thread a camel though a needle’s eye—he’ll have to prove the area is a private club and not a workplace. If he succeeds, though, you can bet other bar owners will follow, and then the legislature will cinch the loophole.

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So long as he seals it off with an airlock and no air supply for the sealed area, sounds fair to me.

Once they asphyxiate themselves ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 10, 2008 2:37 PM

@1: fine by me too, as long as you're in there with them...

Posted by Go Away | June 10, 2008 2:45 PM

They do this in Vancouver in the gay bar in the Duffern. I have seen this in Palm Springs. If you put logic before dogma, which can be difficult for the liberal-as-religion folks, then it makes perfect sense and is a reasonable comprimise. I can't see being to catholic about this type of thing.

Posted by jeff | June 10, 2008 2:49 PM

I love this free country where business owners can't even decide whether or not they allow smoking. You can't possibly leave it up to the customer whether or not they like the decision you've made in your own fucking establishment--it isn't your decision. Refreshing!

Please, God! Cinch it!

Posted by Mr. Poe | June 10, 2008 2:56 PM

This bar is such a shithole that removing all of the air would be an improvement.

Posted by Mike in Olympia | June 10, 2008 2:57 PM

Where did people ever get the idea that the government should have the power to enforce standards of public health? Crazy talk! Crazy talk!

Posted by Tiktok | June 10, 2008 3:10 PM

So Washington didn't allow for an Owner/Operator clause like California did? Here, if the owner is the only person working (and yes, there's bars here that suspiciously became co-ops), smoking is permitted.

Posted by Dougsf | June 10, 2008 3:21 PM

I for one don't see anything wrong with this. Of course, I was one of those horrible, horrible people that thought the whole smoking-in-bars issue should be left to the bar owners to resolve.

Posted by Hernandez | June 10, 2008 3:32 PM

This seems like a step backwards. God damn, bars are so much better now that there's no smoking inside. Seriously.

Posted by Greg | June 10, 2008 3:38 PM

will you're a douche.

Posted by tiffany | June 10, 2008 3:40 PM

Thanks, tiffany.

Posted by Will in Irony-Free Seattle | June 10, 2008 3:42 PM

This isn't ben moore's is it? They don't have an upstairs area. What olympia bar is this about?

Posted by laureney | June 10, 2008 3:45 PM

The bars are better for 75-85% of the people. I used to think that the smoking ban was good for a multitude of reasons. Now I don't think it is as good as for the reason Poe mentions. I also don't think the status quo before the ban was desirable or even logical in it's implementation. The non smoking sections were a joke. They were effectively "less smoking" sections.

I don't presume to want to control the behavior of other people (my gf smokes) but at the same time I know what I would do in face of a repeal; Stop going out completely to establishments that allow smoking. If we are going to agree in the supremacy of property rights of owners of businesses, then we should try to be consistent in the application of that ideology. Architecture, smoking indoors, etc etc.

Now the manifestation of the control the government has in the case of the repeal could be anything from health code violations for air quality, imposing a licensing scheme, anything really, but we can leave the choice to business owners to either allow or disallow smoking. I

This is a great case of weighing the costs of and owners of the costs of externalities. The reason we CAN pass smoking bans is because the costs are borne to a much greater amount of people than the benefits of smoking are to the group of individuals and the compromise established still was unsatisfactory to the larger group. The property owner may or may not benefit from the choice to allow smoking in their establishment but one could make the argument that since there is no obvious or predictable costs associated to choosing one or the other, the ability to choose might be less valuable than the costs of the externalities on non smokers.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 10, 2008 4:24 PM

Trying to have non-smoking areas (upstairs or no) is like trying to have non-peeing areas in a swimming pool. Doesn't work.

If someone wants to smoke, they should do it outside or at home.

Posted by me | June 10, 2008 5:10 PM

@13: With most activities it would be easier, but because smoke is in the very air it would be very difficult and expensive to contain properly. I'm not thrilled about restricting property owners' and businesses' abilities to come up with creative solutions, but short of creating a hermetically sealed smoking area inside each building the indoor smoking ban seems to be the simplest and most effective solution.

Posted by Greg | June 10, 2008 6:02 PM

exactly greg. the remedy was easy because the people who lost weren't bearing any of the costs for their action nor was the choice to allow or disallow smoking in an establishment easily linked to the financial health of the business.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 10, 2008 6:21 PM

Second hand smoke is annoying at best.

Posted by j | June 10, 2008 9:48 PM

If you're drinking at CC's, you should be able to smoke on the deck where Jesus himself expurgates the air.

Posted by Dan | June 11, 2008 12:17 AM

@14 or alternately, if you don't want to smell cigarettes, don't go to the bar.


Posted by smoker in front of your house | June 11, 2008 10:16 AM

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