Note: This page is rather useless, because the war is over in New York State,
and the nannies have won. This is do to many factors, but the pathetic complacency
of many bar owners was a huge contributing factor. This page is only here
as an archive. (And please satisfy my curiosity - how did you get here? There
are no links in the site to this page (that I know of). Please drop me a
line and let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bars and restaurants across
the state are allowing their patrons to light up to protest the New York
State Smoking Ban. Here's how they do it while complying with the letter
of the law.
Warning: I am not a lawyer. This is not
legal advice. You are strongly urged to check with your attorney before
making any changes in your business policies.
The entire law is available here.
The most important portions to consider are the definition of smoking, and
what owners are required to do under the law.
§ 1399-n. Definitions
8. "Smoking" means the burning of a lighted cigar, cigarette,
pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco.
Substances that do not contain tobacco, such as herbal cigarettes, are not
covered by this law.
§ 1399-p. Posting of signs.
1. "Smoking" or "No Smoking" signs, or the international
"No Smoking" symbol, which consists of a pictorial representation
of a burning cigarette enclosed in a circle with a bar across it, shall
be prominently posted and properly maintained where smoking is regulated
by this article, by the owner, operator, manager or other person having
control of such area.
§ 1399-t. Enforcement.
4. The owner, manager, operator or other person having control of any area
subject to the provisions of this article, shall inform, or shall designate
an agent who shall be responsible for informing individuals smoking in an
area in which smoking is not permitted that they are in violation of this
That's it. A proprietor has to post signs. He
has to inform any smoking customers that they
are in violation of the law. Once he's done that, he is in complete compliance
with the law.
If his customer continues to smoke after being informed it is against the
law the proprietor (or employee)
- Does not have to insist that they stop.
- Does not have to stop serving them.
- Does not have to call the police.
Note: This refers to the New York State law. It does not supersede local
laws and restrictions, which may be much stricter. For this
reason we once again urge you to consult
with your attorney before making any changes to your business policies.
For instance, the New York City law also bans ashtrays. (Some establishments
have been fined for having clean, empty ashtrays locked up in back
The law allows Health Departments to fine the smoker, but as of this
writing, that has not been done anywhere in the state.
How to Fight The New York
Here's how to let people smoke in your bar or restaurant and still be in
100% compliance with the law.
Don't apply for a Waiver. Waivers are being doled out infrequently.
You're not likely to get one, and if you do, it is only a stay of
execution. When it expires your situation will be worse than it is
now. You'll be subjected to the same law, and many of your competitors
will be out of business (therefore unable to join you in the fight).
Waivers are bowing to the state, agreeing they had the right to deny
you your property rights with the passage of this law, and begging
with them to please give them back to you for a little while.
Make sure "No Smoking" Signs are clearly visible throughout
If a patron lights up, an employee of the establishment must tell
them they are in violation of the law. Ask them to sign a card that
states "I have been informed by an employee of Joe's Bar and
Grill that smoking in this establishment is a violation of New York
State Law." Have them print their name, sign their name, and
date the card. Store the cards in a safe place.
(Another alternative is to have a log in the back room, where employess
can note the location of the customer and the time and date they informed
The NYS law doesn't prohibit ashtrays. In the interest of fire safety,
provide ashtrays. (In New York City you're not allowed to do this.)
If you have a valid Certificate of Registration to sell cigarettes
or tobacco from the State Department of Taxation and Finance, sell
and promote herbal cigarettes. Use clear, obvious signs to advertise
them. If you don't have a certificate to sell them, consider giving
them away for free to anyone who requests them.
Optional: Put up a collection jar to collect contributions for paying off
fines and legal fees.
People who chose to smoke in your establishment are willfully engaging in
civil disobedience, protesting an unfair and unjust law. Advertise that fact.
Contact every local media outlet you can, and publicize what is happening
in your place. This may have the side effect of filling your place with happy
customers, but it is also sure to bring in some miserable nannies, who can
be counted on to whine to the Department of Health.
When the Department of Health cites you for a violation, always fight
any fine. Demand that the DOH detail the exact time and place of the
violation. (Many notices don't include this information.) Your attorney
can help you stretch out the proceeding as long as possible. If he
can't, find a new lawyer. You will have documentation that proves
you informed your customers of the law. You can also note that your
patron may not have been smoking tobacco, since you sell, promote
(and perhaps give away) herbal cigarettes. The burden of proof is
on the DOH enforcement officer.
When (not if) you are fined, be aware of your rights to appeal any decision
made by the local DOH right on up to the state level. Always take advantage
of this right.
Reach out to competitors. Encourage every bar, restaurant, bingo hall, pool
hall, bowling alley and private club in your area to participate.
Don't think of them as competing with you for customers. Realize they
are powerful partners with you in this fight. The more people who
participate, the more likely this onerous law will be changed, or
If you're not already a member of ESRTA,
join it. They are active members in this fight.
If you and your fellow hospitality business insist on exercising every legal
right you have, you'll overload the system. Overload it.
The Facts salutes those who encourage
their patrons to engage in civil disobedience to fight unfair, unjust, and
stupid laws, and encourages everyone to patronize them.