Unlike UK pubs, it looks like NOLA businesses are going to fight:
New Orleans private business owners are not going to take city regulations that could hurt business lying down.
The latest wide-sweeping regulation in the overly regulated Big Easy is a smoking ban which mandates that businesses prohibit smoking in all sections of their business venue and document to the city with complaints if indoor, illegal smoking occurs.
Over 50 business owners in the French Quarter and other parts of the city have signed on to a Civil District Court lawsuit which questions the legality of the business regulation, saying that the smoking ban is too vague and broad.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the New Orleans City Council are both called out in the lawsuit as defendants in the case. City Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell pushed the ordinance for months, claiming that the smoking ban was necessary for public health concerns.
The business owners who have decided to fight back include the owners of Harrah’s Casino, Pat O’Brien’s, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the Tropical Isle and restaurant owners from Broussard’s, Kingfish and Cafe Maspero. The French Quarter Business League has also signed onto the suit against the city.
At the time of a state fiscal crisis, it seems almost absurd that the city of New Orleans, known for its leisure-like drinking and smoking laws, would prop up and enforce such an ordinance.
The lawsuit says that City Council members were never given a fiscal note, which clearly stated how much the city could lose in revenue because of the smoking ban, prior to voting on the issue.
If that is the case, it would begin to make sense as to why the City Council voted unanimously to place more regulations on businesses and bars in a city which is apparently struggling with a fiscal crisis itself.
The business owners involved in this suit make a great case for private business rights. Far too often, major cities run by Democrats force private business to comply with overreaching regulation which takes control out of the hands of business and into the palm of the well-connected.
New Orleans’ smoking ban is no different.
These business owners have a right as private owners to an enterprise which brings in revenue for the city to decide what they allow and what they do not allow in their venues.
The smoking ban was never necessary in the first place, as there were already over 100 venues in the city which banned smoking, including all restaurants, per state law, and many bars and lounges.
Cantrell’s ordinance was never about smoking or “public health” to begin with. From the beginning, it was a power-grab, in order to push a narrative that business does not know what is right for business, but rather the city knows what is right for business.
The city or state never knows what is right for business and individuals. Anytime a major city or a state gets involved in a matter that it could have simply stayed out of, the issue not only gets worse, but the taxpayers ultimately pay the price.
Which is what is happening with this smoking ban.
The ban in general will surely not generate more money for the city, but decrease revenue instead. On top of that, an entire bureaucratic five-step enforcement system has been set up by the city’s health department to “enforce” the smoking ban.
Instead of a quick, simplified and easy way to enforce the ordinance, instead, it is as if the city purposefully sought out a complicated process that will make enforcement of the ordinance a joke.
An entire smoking complaint form process, coupled with mailing it in and then having a health department official come out to the venue to “investigate” complaints of smoking.
Investigate smoking? Are these public health officials going to take fingerprints off cigarette butts on the ground? This all sounds too ridiculous to be discussing, but these are the kinds of questions that have to be asked when a city takes such inane actions.
These business owners’ fight against the city will be long and strenuous, but it is necessary for the sake of business rights and for the sake of calling out a system designed to fail.
Much like “Sin City” Las Vegas, vice is part of the appeal of New Orleans. But whereas Vegas presents a marketed and manufactured experience, New Orleans is authentically libertine. Its laissez-faire attitude toward personal behavior is woven into the fabric of the city, which has thus far resisted the government-mandated lifestyle regulations that have swept into so many other places.
In April, however, New Orleans will become a bit more domesticated. In January, the city council voted to enact a comprehensive ban on smoking and vaping indoors. The proposal ignited debate, but its passage arrived with an air of inevitability. Smoking bans have successfully transitioned from California quirk to the new normal. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, which tracks smoking laws, reports that 36 states and nearly 900 cities have laws requiring bars and restaurants to be smoke free.
Adding one more mid-sized city to the list may not seem like a big deal, but banning smoking in New Orleans is a symbolic success for the anti-smoking movement. Public health advocates will soon be able to take a victory lap around newly smoke-free bars in the French Quarter. Others will wistfully lament that the city has given up part of its unique charm, becoming a little more like the rest of the country. “New Orleans is a city where people have been largely free to make their own mistakes, and to many the smoking ban is, so far, the biggest step in a continuing effort to roll back that freedom,” says T. Cole Newton, owner of the New Orleans bar Twelve Mile Limit, although he’s quick to point out that plenty of permissiveness remains….