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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

 

Smoke out

Last year around this time I found myself in argument with a group of readers argument at Portland's Future Awesome over rumblings concerning a citywide smoking ban in bars. In light of recent bans in Eugene and Washington State, one going into effect here is almost inevitable. It's not a question of if but when I won't be able to smoke in my favorite Portland watering holes. Now that articles like this one are appearing in the Portland Tribune, I predict a ban will come to pass within the next year or two. Could be citywide, could be statewide. We'll see.

The article focuses on the effect a ban would have on area drinking establishments. While an argument can be made that second hand smoke is tearing apart the lungs of bartenders, there's the typical fallbacks "free market!," "a ban will hurt small business owners!" and "no one's making them work in these places!" to consider. Instead of going back and forth on this until City Hall or the State Legislature brings the hammer completely down, why not put together a compromise that would pacify both the smokers and the hackers?

In Eugene several bars have built smoking porches but, when you get right down to it, no one wants to give up their barstool to stand outside in the cold underneath a propane heater. Those of us that enjoy a few dozen unfiltered Camels while sucking down a beer would prefer to do so inside, thank you kindly. So here are my proposals:

1. Some sort of ordinance that would require bar owners to provide their staff with scuba gear. Or at least surgical masks that might filter out a percentage of all those nasty chemicals the big, bad cigarette companies stick in their products.

Or, perhaps more realistically...

2. A clause in the ban that would allow private clubs to continue coating their walls in sweet, sweet nicotine. This blatant loophole would allow at least a few Portland bars to change their classification and let patrons light up. Much like the archaic laws that make drinking in Utah bars, er, "private clubs" almost akin to sneaking into a speak-easy, local smoke-clogged favorites like the Horse Brass Pub could be left out of the ban. That is, provided the owner(s) are willing to sell memberships to their newly established "club" for a nominal fee, or if the new laws allow, hand them out for free.

Faced with a hassle like this, most local bar owners probably wouldn't bother and opt to go smoke free. Only places like the Horse Brass, where "smoking appears to be on the menu," might go for it in a bid to appeal to their cigarette-addicted clientele. A compromise like this would allow bartenders around Portland to breath a sigh of relief and allow those of us hell bent on dying from lung cancer at least a few remaining safe havens.

Hey, it could work, right?

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