In een nieuw wetsvoorstel dat afgelopen maandag in het parlement van de staat New York is ingediend wordt de rigide anti-rookwetgeving, die vorig jaar werd ingevoerd, weer aanzienlijk afgezwakt. Het nieuwe voorstel staat roken toe in bars en bargedeelten van restaurants wanneer daar een goede ventilatie is aangebracht.
Enkele restaurants, met name de grote ketens, protesteren: bars en restaurants worden niet meer gelijk behandeld, vinden ze.
Buffalo News – March 9, 2004
Proposal favors smoking in bars Some restaurants call bill unfair By Tom Precious
ALBANY – Smoking would return to bars across New York State under legislation introduced Monday.
It is the first major legislative push by taverns since the state eight months ago enacted one of the nation’s toughest anti-smoking laws.
Yet while the issue over smoking in public has been mainly between health and business interests, the new proposal has spawned new combatants: restaurants vs. bars.
The legislation, introduced by a central New York Republican in the GOP-led Senate, would let bars take advantage of a major loophole by permitting them to install ventilation systems to clear the air of smoke – and bring smokers back to their bar stools.
But while health groups insisted bar customers and workers will still be at risk from secondhand smoke, an influential association representing restaurants has joined the fray.
Some restaurants say the bar industry is trying to grab unfair advantage by changing the law to permit smoking only in their establishments. But bar owners, some of whom have seen business plummet since the ban went into effect last July, say restaurants already enjoy an edge – food service – that taverns haven’t been able to rely on to make up for the loss of business from the smoking prohibition.
Monday, both sides could not even agree on what the legislation states.
Restaurant owners said it would give exclusive rights to bars to return to smoking, while bar industry officials insist the intent of the bill is to let restaurants bring back smoking if they have separate bar areas. Restaurant owners themselves were split over whether they even want to bring back smoking.
“This is what divides the industry. Our members will go through the roof,” Rick Sampson, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, said of the new legislation signed onto by three Western New York lawmakers.
Restaurants, which long opposed smoking bans, dropped that fight two years ago, arguing that they would rather have a level playing field across the state for all businesses than the patchwork of anti-smoking laws and rules differing from county to county. They view this newest bid to weaken the 2003 clean indoor air act as a return to confusion and, ultimately, one that will draw restaurant patrons to bars.
“Once you start to divide the industry, you’ve got a problem,” said Sampson, whose group represents 7,000 members, from small, independent restaurants to the big chains. He said the new proposal, pushed by the tavern industry, “totally defeats the purpose of the law.”
But Brenda Perks, a bar owner in the Chautauqua County community of Falconer, said there is no level playing field as long as there are businesses in border communities competing with cross-border rivals with less restrictive laws and places like Indian casinos and private clubs that are exempt from the smoking ban.
“This whole law is out of whack,” said Perks, owner of Mel’s Place, who is among the leaders of the campaign to change the law to benefit bars. Her business, down 48 percent since the smoking ban, could not compete without the waiver she recently was granted from the county, after proving financial hardship, in the way restaurants can because she serves no food.
Restaurants without bars, which would not qualify for the exemption under the new legislation, want to keep the status quo, as do others not suffering from a drop in business.
Dennis DiPaolo, owner of Ilio DePaolo’s Restaurant in Blasdell, said he spent thousands trying to comply with Erie County’s smoking ban, which was replaced last year with the tougher state ban. He said his reading of the legislation introduced Monday is that it would apply only to bars, not his establishment.
“It makes for an uneven playing field. It pits bars and restaurants against each other,” he said.
For DiPaolo, the status quo is working.
“We’ve got the law. Live with it. We’re in America. Live by the law we’ve got,” he said. Besides, he added, “My customers like it the way it is.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Raymond Meier, an Oneida County Republican, did not return calls to comment.
His legislation would permit smoking in bars that have installed filtration devices – which can cost upward of $6,000 to install – that remove at least 99 percent of air contaminants, as determined by the state Health Department.
Health groups believe the bill would threaten public health, and they insist the relaxation of the law applies only to bars, not restaurants.
“Why are bars the only industry where workers don’t deserve to be protected from carcinogens in the workplace,” said Michael Bopp, a lobbyist with the American Cancer Society.
“The reason why it’s so tough is that it was perfectly fair,” he said of the law. “Once some businesses get out from under, then it’s harder to make the case that all other businesses should comply as strongly as they now must.”
The state’s tavern industry says the law has shuttered bars and unfairly hits smaller businesses where drinking and smoking have been a draw for generations. Scott Wexler, head of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association, insisted the intent of the bill is to permit restaurants that also have bar areas to bring back smoking.
“If the objective of the law was to protect employees from secondhand smoke, and this technology will do it, then what’s wrong with it?” he said.
But Sampson, the state restaurant association president, questioned the new rollback drive. “If the issue really is public health and the health of employees, I’m confused. You’re now putting business and profits ahead of public health.” he said.
Restaurants themselves are divided over the issue. At Mr. Bill’s restaurant in Cheektowaga, owner Bill DeLuca said it would not be fair to allow just bars to bring back smoking.
But he said he would like to see smoking again in his bar area of the restaurant.