Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Freedom to Act exemption which allows MN bars and restaurants to legally accomodate smokers and non-smokers

Cambridge, MN attorney Mark W. Benjamin has discovered a loophole in the state smoking ban:

Mark W. Benjamin: Bars could stage a challenge to statewide smoking ban
Let small-town dramas play out with artistic depictions of smoking patrons steeped in realism.
Last update: February 8, 2008 - 5:45 PM
(article link)

When the smoking ban was debated, some theater-going, latte-drinking, Volvo-driving legislators got their undies all in a bundle that a few performers might not be allowed to smoke cigarettes on stage. Really. They worried that performers might have to suck on straws or pencils or -- you know -- "act" like they were smoking. Heavens! Whatever would become of The Theatre?

Not to worry. Our legislators quietly slipped in an exception for "theatrical productions" so that actors and actresses could puff away onstage and the delicate flower of artistic expression could more fully flourish in the North Star State.

But in their haste they forgot to define where "theatrical productions" could be performed. And they forgot the words of the Bard, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." If we have Shakespeare in the park, can't we have Shakespeare in the bar?

Clearing the Air emailed Mr. Benjamin to point out that there is another smoking ban exemption that could also be used to defeat the statewide ban which has closed 157+ bars and restaurants and eliminated 5,000 - 7,500 jobs mainly in the Twin Cities metro area:

Additionally air quality testing which proves there is no workplace air quality hazard may pre-empt or nullify all local and state bans, since a federal regulatory agency, OSHA, already has established permissible exposure limits:

Benjamin goes on to state in the Star Tribune Op-Ed:

So if you're a bar owner and don a beret, declare your bar a stage, hand out scripts and direct your patrons -- ahem -- performers to fire up some heaters, then you've got a bona fide "theatrical production" going on. The acting might not be so good, but the smoking will be sheer bliss -- and legal to boot.

Bravo Mr. Benjamin......well played.

According to this KSTP news video Mark W. Benjamin says if any patron...ahem....performer is cited as violating the statewide smoking ban......he will defend them "....for free..."

An attorney willing to do what's right for free.....that's a rare performance in itself.

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