Evasive Driving

Smoking ban loophole.

An Edmonton ordinance that took effect last summer prohibits smoking in buildings and other structures open to the public. But the city council did not think to include vehicles, a loophole that Tony Burke, proprietor of T.B.’s Pub, decided was big enough to drive a bus through.

Worried that his customers would not be keen on ducking outside to smoke during Alberta’s harsh winters, Burke bought an old school bus, painted it red, strung some lights, installed insulation and carpeting, and rearranged the seats to create a smoking lounge on wheels that he parked outside his bar. “I can let people smoke on it if I want,” he told The Globe and Mail in January. “The city doesn’t have control over what people do in their own vehicles. I did my research.” The new amenity was a hit with Burke’s customers, who affectionately referred to it as the “Butt Bus” and “Puff the Magic Wagon.”

After asking bar owners to comply with “the spirit” of the smoking ban and threatening to find a legal pretext to shut down the Butt Bus, city officials declared that it was not a “legitimate” vehicle because it was not registered and insured. But a similar motorized refuge owned by one of Burke’s competitors, Wally Zack of Borderline Sports Pub, did pass muster. “The vehicle is licensed and insured,” Zack told the Canadian Press, “and I drive it every day.”

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