Monday, February 11, 2008

Innovation to Circumvent Injustice

As we tread steadily toward a nationwide ban on smoking in public, a resort owner in Minnesota has come up with an innovative way to circumvent that state's law that prohibits indoor smoking.

Noting that the smoking ban had reduced its business, Barnacle's resort in Lake Mille Lacs found a loophole in the law: it permits smoking by actors in a theatrical performance.

The AP reports:

Barnacle's Resort in Lake Mille Lacs turned its normal Saturday night business into a play, testing a loophole in Minnesota's smoking ban. The production included programs and buttons that said "Act Now!"

"You are looking at a stage. You are looking at a playhouse," said Mark Benjamin, a nonsmoking lawyer who worked the bar dressed in Shakespearian garb. "Those are not cigarettes -- those are props."

The law allows actors and actresses to light up in theatrical performances -- but it doesn't define what that means. The idea of stretching the definition came to Benjamin at the Renaissance Festival, an annual event where people dress up in costumes.

Barnacle's usual winter boom went missing this winter, after smoking was outlawed in bars, restaurants and other indoor workplaces in October. Resort co-owner Sheila Kromer said she tried to stop the ban by testifying against it at the Capitol, but that didn't work.

So she was interested in Benjamin's idea, and said local police told her they won't step in unless someone complains.

"Several of the legislators said, 'You know, you've got to be innovative. Come up with something to get the people in your bar.' Right? OK. What's wrong with a theater night? Is that not being creative?" Kromer said.
The proprietors at Barnacle's plan to continue the Saturday night performances weekly for as long as they bring in customers -- or until somebody complains to the authorities and shuts them down.

To paraphrase an old saying, When the legislature closes a door, good ol' American ingenuity opens a window.

No comments: