At today’s City Council meeting, five different amendments to the soon-to-be-enacted smoking ban in New Orleans will be heard.
The new law, which takes effect on April 22, will prohibit smoking in bars, restaurants and casinos. Currently an exemption exists for cigar stores in business prior to Dec. 10, 2014 that generate more than 10 percent from the sale of cigars and locker rentals, but that could be expanded.
Ordinance 30520 would exempt Tobacco Retail Businesses, which are defined by the amendment as those that generate at least 70 percent of sales through tobacco products and accessories. They would be allowed to serve both food and alcohol, so long as tobacco sales met the threshold, but they would be barred for providing “live entertainment” and gambling.
The amendment comes from Councilmembers Nadine Ramsey and Jared Brossett.
Ramsey is also responsible for Ordinance 30611, which would define a “cigar bar” as a business that generates 10 percent or more of its revenue from the sale of cigars and the rental of humidors. Under the definition cigar bars would not be allowed to grant entry to anyone under the age of 21 and smoking cigarettes indoors would be illegal.
This proposal is believed to be directed at exempting a single business, Habana Hemingway Cigar Bar.
Four of the seven members of the City Council are behind Ordinance 30552, which would remove penalties for individual violators of the new smoking law. Instead, the only individuals subjected to fines would be the operators of businesses found in violation of the law.
Ordinance 30578 would allow for smoking with five feet of an enclosed area, 25 feet of enclosed public property and five feet of bleachers or grandstands—currently laws are written that would prohibit smoking in those circumstances.
Finally, Ordinance 30619 would allow for the creation of designated outdoor smoking areas at at bars, restaurants, casinos and other licensed gambling areas.
This smoking ban has become particularly important for the cigar industry because the annual IPCPR Convention & Trade Show will come to New Orleans this July. The trade show has already been granted the necessary waivers needed so that smoking will be allowed in the convention center and private events.
Amendments to the smoking ban are nothing new.
A plethora of amendments were hotly contested—many being decided by a 4-3 vote—before the smoking ban passed unanimously. Changes were made that removed certain enforcement, including a restriction on smoking near entrances of buildings, while a measure to remove the cigar bar exemption failed.
In addition to tomorrow’s vote, Harrah’s, which operates a 115,000-square-foot casino on Canal Street, indicated yesterday it would like the debate about smoking in gambling areas to be reopened.