Chicago's (Legal) Smokeasy

As a smoking ban takes effect this week in Chicago, a subsidiary of R.J. Reynolds has opened an upscale cigarette lounge there. Although the Marshall McGearty Tobacco Lounge also serves alcohol, snacks, and coffee drinks, it's exempt from the ban (which at any rate does not cover bars or restaurants with bars until July 2008) because it counts as a "retail tobacco store," defined as a business that gets at least 65 percent of its revenue from selling tobacco or tobacco accessories. Predictably, antismokers are complaining that, although the place complies with the letter of the law, it does not comply with its "spirit," inasmuch as it allows people to relax in a pleasant environment and enjoy a cigarette. They also worry about the lounge's impact on impressionable young people. "It's trying to get an 18-to-25 demographic here, to make smoking seem desirable, attractive, like a secret club," says Bronson Frick, associate director for Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

First people like Frick campaign to banish smokers from virtually every indoor location; then they complain that the few remaining sanctuaries have the aura of "a secret club." This is like prohibitionists complaining that speakeasies make drinking seem cool.

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  • Rich Ard||

    Good point raised in the article, tho - how do they keep their tobacco sales at or above 65% of total revenue? If it starts to dip (no pun intended) can they have their own agents come in and buy enough to make the numbers crunch?

  • ||

    Maybe they have a 2-pack minimum?

  • R C Dean||

    They also worry about the lounge's impact on impressionable young people. "It's trying to get an 18-to-25 demographic

    So now 18-25 year olds should be treated like children and protected against unseemly influences.

  • Timothy||

    Rich Ard: Easy, start giving away booze, or have steep discounts.

    This is like prohibitionists complaining that speakeasies make drinking seem cool.

    Don't need prohibitionists to make drinking seem cool, drinking is cool enough on its own.

  • ||

    "It's trying to get an 18-to-25 demographic here, to make smoking seem desirable, attractive, like a secret club,"

    So start your own super-cool exclusive non-smoking club, jackass.

  • Windypundit||

    "So start your own super-cool exclusive non-smoking club, jackass."

    Crap that's funny! And so true. It's amazing to me how many idiotic complaints would go away if more people would think like that.

  • ||

    So now 18-25 year olds should be treated like children and protected against unseemly influences.

    Of course! Why should they be treated differently from anyone else?

  • ||

    Worth reading: "The Nazi War on Cancer" (Robert N. Proctor). Beside industrial concerns (solution: use slave labor), it details the Nazi anti-smoking campaigns which closely mirror our current anti-smoking fad.
    Fun fact: their main anti-smoking zealot was also in charge of murdering psych patients.

    In the "been there, done that" arena:
    King James I [...] described the plant as 'an invention of Satan' and banned tobacco from London's alehouses.

  • ||

    "It's trying to get an 18-to-25 demographic here, to make smoking seem desirable, attractive, like a secret club,"

    Where are Joe Camel and Marlboro Man when we need them? Truly, this advertising appraoch is better than any character Madison Avenue could come up with.

    IMHO, the Patriot Act should cover secret clubs to protect the children. /snark

  • ||

    Predictably, antismokers are complaining that, although the place complies with the letter of the law, it does not comply with its "spirit," inasmuch as it allows people to relax in a pleasant environment and enjoy a cigarette.

    Wasn't the law supposed to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke?

  • ||

    If smoking in public is illegal, surely we can make a law against farting elevators

  • ||

    "So start your own super-cool exclusive non-smoking club, jackass."

    Yeah, a super-cool non-smoking club.

    Suuuuuure.

    Like, they could sit around being all angry at smokers, yeah, that's cool.

  • ||

    Whee!
    Marshall McGearty's rules! They have great ventilation, an alcohol license, and they don't treat smokers like lepers!

    Went there with about 8 people last week, and we all decided it should be our new hangout. Also, they make their own cigs. And the food isn't bad either, though they do have to deliver it in little plastic containers, as it's catered.

    And nice, new boardgames are available for anyone who wants to play.

    I love this place!

    What we heard through the grapevine is that it's actually owned by one of the tobacco companies, which would explain why I keep getting very professional-looking flyers sent to my home. We discussed the idea that this could be the new wave in smoking around the country. Why not? If we've got restaurants based on brand-name grills or motorcycles, why shouldn't tobacco companies open up smoke-friendly bars?

  • ||

    "This is not what I intended," Alderman Ed Smith

    That's your own goddamn fault, Al, for never going public with what you intended. Then again, when has a politician EVER gone public with what they intended? OK, Hitler, bin Laden....

  • ||

    Yeah, a super-cool non-smoking club. Suuuuuure. Like, they could sit around being all angry at smokers, yeah, that's cool.

    They can brag about how pink their lungs are, and say things like "Wow! Kissing you is totally not like kissing an ashtray!" And, "For every cigarette I don't smoke, my lifespan is not being reduced by an additional five minutes."

    And they can put a big sign outside the club saying "You can't come in here because you're an icky smoker. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo to you."

  • ||

    So start your own super-cool exclusive non-smoking club, jackass.

    LOL! And instead of tobacco, they can draw in the 18-25's with porn.

  • ||

    Jennifer, that's so cool.

    Cool like Sunday School.

  • ||

    Oh, and DUH this kind of thing is going to make smoking seem cool.

    I've been saying this for ages: keep raising the price of cigs, suckers, and you'll succeed in making it a luxury item/status symbol. Nice work!
    I even have an idea of how to cash in on the future covert prestige of smoking.

  • ||

    Fine, Mediageek. How about this: "Hey there, sexy baby. Go to bed with me, and you won't need cigarettes to smoke after sex."

  • ||

    "For every cigarette I don't smoke, my lifespan is not being reduced by an additional five minutes."

    The only problem with that is those minutes are added to the end of your life when you are old and sick anyway, from like being old and stuff, not from smoking.

  • ||

    And in addition, this club gives smokers another way to feel cool while complaining about ninny's complaining about how cool they are. Since when does it matter who complains? The Chicago law is the kind of compromise position that allows everyone equal complaining rights. Now they just need to allow opium dens as long as 65% or more of the revenue is from opium products, then we'd be getting somewhere (I am serious).

  • ||

    "It's trying to get an 18-to-25 demographic here, to make smoking seem desirable, attractive, like a secret club," says Bronson Frick, associate director for Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

    Wait, the guy from the nonsmokers' rights group has an agenda that goes beyond nonsomkers' rights? Perhaps they can huddle with MADD and come up with less transparent ulterior motives

  • ||

    "Fine, Mediageek. How about this: "Hey there, sexy baby. Go to bed with me, and you won't need cigarettes to smoke after sex.""

    I dunno. I've never needed a cig afterwards as I just smoke all on my own...

  • ||

    It's only a matter of time before the anti-smoking crowd will demand the right to patronize these new smoking clubs, but without having to deal with all that nasty smoke. Ultimately, they're doomed.

  • ||

    It's not about smokers, people. It's about labourers. If I took a job there (as a non-smoker), I have a right to clean air and not get cancer.

  • ||

    the 65% rule is in effect for drinking establishments, but nobody complains about those. I'm not sure if 65% is the exact figure, but establishments that get at least X% of revenue from food don't count as bars and can stay open as late as they want whereas for bars there are different liquor licenses for how late they can stay open. (this is for Chicago, btw) i don't see any complaints about those places violating the spirit fo the law.

    linguist, drf/VM, other fellow chicago reasonoids, I have a business proposal for you: We open up one of these tobaccy shops, but we don't sell alcohol per se. It will be a BYOB establishment and we'll charge a corking fee for whatever is brought in. At the same time we will run a separate liquor store business in an adjoining location where said BYOB items can be purchased through an indoor connection of some sort. For a nominal fee we would store bottles of liquor for customers who would not want to drag bottles around with them all the time, but only bottles that were purhased from our adjoining store.

    anyone want to make a market on the o/u for how long before our business plan in outlawed?

  • ||

    Do I have a right to not get cancer too? Where do I sign up for this?

  • ||

    Re: The Great Ape's BYOB business plan

    There is a strip club in the Hagerstown, MD area (actually in Funkstown :D) that works specifically like that because fully nudity is not allowed if the business has a liquor license - so they don't. They have a shop next door that sells lots of liquors. Operated for years that way.

  • ||

    It's not about smokers, people. It's about labourers. If I took a job there (as a non-smoker), I have a right to clean air and not get cancer.

    I don't know if you're serious, but why would a non-smoker with an aversion to second-hand smoke want to work in a smoking lounge?

  • ||

    I don't know if you're serious, but why would a non-smoker with an aversion to second-hand smoke want to work in a smoking lounge?

    So that they can claim that their rights are being violated by the smokers at the smoking lounge. Thereby attempting to get the smoking lounge either closed down or converted into a non-smoking lounge. Thereby continuing towards their actual goal which isn't to defend smoker's rights, but to elinate the use of tobacco proucts altogether. Thereby making everyone safer and happier.

  • ||

    It's not about smokers, people. It's about labourers. If I took a job there (as a non-smoker), I have a right to clean air and not get cancer.

    I don't know if you're serious, but why would a non-smoker with an aversion to second-hand smoke want to work in a smoking lounge?

    I am one of those ninnies that like and believe the idea that this is about working environment, but even I think a non-smoker who takes a job at a smoking lounge is doing so willingly and has no place to complain. I voted for Seattle's ban, but would have liked an exemption like the one in the Chicago law. (there are loopholes in the Seattle law, but it would be better to be explicit).

  • ||

    " how do they keep their tobacco sales at or above 65% of total revenue"

    Easy, they're a subsidiary of RJR. This means they can buy their cigarettes at manufacturer's cost (something like 20 cents a pack IIRC), then sell them at normal market prices making several dollars profit per pack.

    If their other revenue streams start to increase (beer,wine, snacks etc...) they just find a wholesaler who charges more (thus lowering the profitability fo these items) or buy them at retail.

    Of course, this only works if the law states net revenues, if it's gross revenues, all bets are off.

  • Jeff P.||

    My dream scenario:
    The aggregate impact of class-action lawsuits and smoking bans forces Altria to grow a pair and decide that they can no longer compete in the current environment. Henceforth, they are discontinuing all of their Kraft foods lines and focusing solely on tobacco. By months end all of those cheeses and coffees and frozen pizzas will be no more.
    The consumers are outraged. They demand access to their favorite junk foods as a "right." Altria claims that they own the brands and can dispose of them at will. They can more-than-recoup their loses in the overseas tobacco market.
    The Senate immediatly calls a series of hearings, where a parade of morbidly obese folks testify that they "need" thier processed cheese and Tombstone pizzas as part of their lifestyle.
    In the end, the supreme court rules that a successful company does not, in fact, own its brands and forces Altria to keep Kraft open. The regulated economy is revealed as fake, and fat people briefly dance in the streets until they become winded.
    Like I said, dream scenario.

  • ||

    Not That said:
    I am one of those ninnies that like and believe the idea that this is about working environment, but even I think a non-smoker who takes a job at a smoking lounge is doing so willingly and has no place to complain.

    Since the Washington ordinance has no exceptions for smoke shops, hookah bars or ANY business that has even a single paid employee, this is kind of a moot point, isn't it?

    BTW, here's a great new article on the direction that Seattle's been going. The smoking ban is included prominently.

    http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/0603/nanny-seattle.php

    Among other things, note how Roger Valdez, the state 'tobacco czar', first goes from a 'Oh, it's no big deal, we're not interested in harassing smokers' attitude BEFORE the election to a 'You have no right to smoke anywhere, including your own home' attitude AFTER it passed.

    Also note the 2.1 million dollar "Smoking is Just Gross" advertising campaign-- you know, all those billboards and bus advertisements? Your tax dollars at work.

  • ||

    If the tobacco companies open smoking lounges, it's only a matter of time before someone tries to get the Justice Department to fight them as 'monopolies'.

  • Rich Ard||

    "...if it's gross revenues, all bets are off."

    Good call - net revenues hadn't occured to me.

  • ||

    PISS OFF to all anti-anything !!!! In my line of work I smoke more cillica (concrete dust) in a day than cigs in a week ! I know where my lung cancer will actually come from . Unlike the the weak minded bible nazis I don't beleive everything that spews from the governments mouth just because they beleive in jesus (so did judus).What I do beleive, is we in this ever reversing country are supposed to be free to make our OWN choices!!! Not choose for others. Since Democracy was spawned from ANARCHY . And jesus was right to protest money changing hands in his Jewish gods temple. As a anarchist and an Anton LeVay like minded Satanist,I must say it is so tiresome to work like a dog building places for a pious bunch of fatwallet,hummerdriving,scripture spouting fascists to sit and tell me how to live, while taking my hard earned money to build more churches,or to send over seas, when there are plenty of homeless and hungry people here. So I will be smoking various plantage till I die,but at least I can rest comfortly knowing as a first hand smoker I MIGHT get cancer . While anti-smoking 2nd hand smokers will in fact get THE cancer!!!!!!!!!!! COME AND GET ONE IN THE MARLBOROS,IF YA GOT ANY MARLBOROS THAT IS!!!!! It's like they told me about gospel hymes "If you dont like it GO OUT SIDE and breathe FREE so I can to !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hail Satan

  • ||

    Jeff P that was a great summary of Atlas.

  • ||

    For the record:
    "Since the Washington ordinance has no exceptions for smoke shops, hookah bars or ANY business that has even a single paid employee, this is kind of a moot point, isn't it?"

    A meer 24 hours after a the smoking ban went into effect in Seattle, I walked past a private smoking club. Someone found a loophole. I haven't (why would I) checked in on the status/ success of the establishment, but it looked pretty dead that night.

    Again, I think it would have been better to let the hookah bars (etc) have an explicit exemption. And I am one of those "nannies" that wants to have the right to be free of your stinking chimney asses while I work.

    You can claim your right to smoke indoors trumps mine (or you'll claim that you have a right and I don't, whatever). I'll claim the opposite. If I make a better argument, you lose. Get over it. Celebrate the rational way Chicago found a compromise position. And please continue complaining from the sidelines. Or, if you live in Washington, propose a voter initiative that makes an exemption for hookah bars, and I'll vote for it. I ain't gonna do it. I ain't motivated. You ain't gonna do it 'cuz you'd have to compromise on your position (all or nothing usually ends up with nothing).

  • ||

    "It's not about smokers, people. It's about labourers. If I took a job there (as a non-smoker), I have a right to clean air and not get cancer."

    I know that this thread is long since dead, but I just have to point out that Finkelstein has posted the most idiotic thing I've read all day.

    Here's a clue, jackass:
    Don't like smoke in the air?

    Wear a mask.
    Or, better yet, go get a job somewhere else.

    What if this place limited employment only to smokers? No non-smoking employees allowed?

    Would that make you happy?

    Why or why not?

    (Not that I expect an answer from such an obviously half-witted dolt.)

  • ||

    Status update:

    A group of us planned to go to McGearty's last night, only to find it closed for a private party. Seems it's booked a lot for private parties...our guess is it's part of the bribes RJ Reynolds had to make to Daly's admin in order to get the mayor to force the smoking compromise through.

    Sigh.

  • ||

    Hello Not That:

    Sure, after the ban a number of places tried defying it or getting around it. I know of one personally-- their stance is that they are a private club (need a membership to get in) AND they have no 'employees', just 'volunteers'. While I applaud them I personally think they're going to get shut down eventually. The law only went into effect Dec 8th. Section 3 of the ordinance states that "No person may smoke in a public place or in any place of employment." Period.

    Read the ordinance yourself. It's not that long.

    http://www.secstate.wa.gov/elections/initiatives/text/i901.pdf

    BTW, what's happening with the places that have defied the ban is that the Health Department will threaten to shut them down. (The Monkey Pub on Roosevelt had this happen. From an article in the UW Daily 1/6:)

    "Following the start of Washington's state-wide restaurant and bar smoking ban on Dec. 9, the Monkey Pub's staff chose to defy the law. For 20 days they were the only North Seattle bar where customers were allowed to smoke indoors, but in late December the owner received letters from the health department threatening a revocation of the pub's business and liquor licenses."

    So that's the way it works. No exceptions for any 'public place', OR any business with even a single employee.

  • ||

    Just Another.
    I know. I agree. It is silly not to have exceptions. Given that, someone should propose a change. I would vote for it.

    I think the WA law was written the way it was to reduce the cost of enforcement. It is much easier to make black and white determinations than grey ones. But I think that desire(while sometimes okay) creates unreasonable restrictions at the margins in this case.

    I think the private clubs with volunteers would be untouched by the law as written...by the way. That would be the loophole I was talking about. I don't see anyway the state could justify closing them down based on the law (they might try, but I think a court would side with the club).

  • ||

    Not That:

    Well, perhaps I'm more cynical than you, but I don't believe that the 'private club' bit is going to be respected by the government. What I predict is that the 'volunteer' status of any place's help is going to be challenged, probably by the Dept of L&I or similar. Maybe get the IRS involved as well. Also, I predict that Law Enforcement is going to start clamping down on the 25-foot rule as well for individuals standing outside places like Capitol Hill clubs. It's like the mandatory seatbelt law: these are easy $100 fines, a source of revenue. (It's a fairly standard tenet on a liberatarian board like this that giving Law Enforcement a financial incentive usually results in draconian enforcement.)

    I-901 was pushed through by a well-organized "progressive" group that really is prohibitionist in nature. It's supported by Christine Gregoire, whose main claim to fame as Attorney General was shaking down Big Tobacco. One of her first actions as governor was raising cigarette taxes .60/pack, and calling it an "emergency" measure. It was supported by the State Democratic party, who contributed their entire mailing database to the pro-initiative campaign (it's listed as a $10,500 indirect contribution on the disclosure forms). It's in combination with a $2.1 million tax-funded advertising campaign to promote nothing more profound than "smoking is icky" and encourage people to ban it even in outdoor areas like parks. Pure social engineering: "Er, it's for the employees! Now, it's for the children! Er, now, it's for your own good! Er, now it's-- hell! We just don't want to see it at all!"

    Do you really think that there's going to be anything but more stringent enforcement of this, given the circumstances?

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