On Friday, a judge denied a restraining order brought on by a lawsuit from Harrah’s Casinos and over 50 other bars that would have temporarily halted the new smoking ban in New Orleans. That means as of midnight tonight, smoking will be illegal in most bars, restaurants and gaming floors throughout the city.
While passed unanimously in late January, the law has been rather controversial. Earlier this month, the City Council amended the law to allow for outdoor smoking areas, eliminate rules that would require smokers to be five feet away from an enclosed area and created a new definition for a cigar bar.
Last week, the New Orleans Planning Commission voted 8-1 against the City Council’s definition of a cigar bar as a business that generated at least 10 percent of its revenue from cigars and related accessories and humidor rentals. That was largely seen as a way to exempt one business—La Habana Hemingway in the French Quarter—at the request of Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey.
La Habana has been uniquely controversial because while the business is effectively a cigar bar, it was operating with a restaurant license, something it was found to be in violation of multiple times. The smoking ban defines cigar bars based off businesses that were licensed cigar bars in 2014, a grandfathering clause that would exclude La Habana, who was using a different license.
Ultimately, the City Council could overrule the planning commission, something that has not happened as of yet.
While Harrah’s was not successful in getting a restraining order in place for the ban, proceedings for the lawsuit are scheduled to resume on May 21 for a hearing on the merits of the case in Civil District Court.
The smoking ban in New Orleans has become a focal point for the cigar world as the industry will gather there this July for the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show. A week ago the IPCPR announced a list of places where smoking would be permitted during the trade show.