The livelihood at one bar is causing quite a stir in New Orleans.
Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey is proposing a new definition of what a “tobacco retail business,” specifically, a business who derives 70 percent or more of its revenue from the sale and consumption of tobacco products. While that sounds simple enough, the measure is actually extremely complex in the world of the upcoming smoking ban in New Orleans.
The problem is Ramsey’s proposal is essentially to exempt one business from the smoking ban, La Habana Hemingway Cigar Bar. The business is currently licensed as a restaurant, meaning it must derive 50 percent of sales from food and can allow the sale of alcohol, but not smoking. La Habana has been fined for not serving food and allowing smoking.
Under the proposal, “tobacco retail businesses” would be able to allow smoking and sell alcohol, so long as the latter is incidental.” Critics of the bill are fearful other bars could reclassify themselves as “tobacco retail businesses” to skirt the new law, which bans smoking at bars.
All that sounds great for cigar smokers, particularly as the industry’s trade show will head to New Orleans this summer and there are concerns about places to smoke at night under the new law. The problem with the new definition might be an unintended consequence—making it harder for legitimate tobacco business to gain licenses under the new law.
A vote on the matter is expected in March.