Recently, in a Smoky Bar

One recent night, I dropped into a local bar for a beer. There were two people there, one on either side of the bar. There was a pack of cigarettes sitting on the bar. The stench in the room told me that the pack had been opened recently. Or maybe there was a recent tobacco bonfire in the room.

Taken aback, I asked the bartender if there was smoking in there. The bartender mistook my query for a request to smoke, and said, "Sure, go ahead."

That's illegal in Austin. So, I thought I'd file a complaint.

Even if I stipulate that your right to satisfy your physical addiction trumps my right not to get cancer, this is still wrong. The law says "no smoking" and cheating isn't fair to the venues that stick by the rules.

I called the local Health and Human Services Department (972-5600) during business hours. I asked to file a complaint for a smoking ban violation. I was connected to some department, presumably the Environmental and Consumer Health Unit. They asked me for the name of the business, its address, the date and time of the occurrence, and what happened.

They also asked if I wanted to leave my name and telephone number. I asked if the information is confidential, and if it is subject to an open records request. They said they could not guarantee confidentiality, so I chose to make the complaint anonymously.

My understanding is that an inspector will visit the venue and if a violation is found they will work with the owner to bring them into compliance. Legal action occurs after repeated violations.

A lawsuit to overturn the ban was back in the news recently. The main claim is that bar owners want individuals, not businesses, responsible. The bar owners say that the rules are unclear as to what they need to do.

This is disingenuous. The bar owners are trying to manufacture a chasm of gray out of a split hair. Let's start here: when a patron asks, "Can I smoke?" just say, "No."

You don't say, "I don't care, it's your responsibility." And certainly not, "Sure, go ahead." The answer is simple: tell them the law says no. If you do that one simple step, then most of the uncertainty crumbles away.

So what if the person won't comply? For goodness sake, we are talking about bars here. What business (besides the Mafia) has more experience and ability to deal with uncompliant patrons?

The current complaint driven process is the right way to go about this. When I file a complaint, an inspector will investigate, and action will be taken if warranted. If I had to complain against an individual, I'd instead have to call 911 and summon an officer to make an arrest. The "smoking police" that live only in the rhetoric of the ban opponents would become a reality. If there is going to be a smoking ban, the way we are doing it makes sense.

I left the smoky bar and went down the street to another bar. A packed bar. One that enforces the smoking ordinance. Who knows, maybe someday soon, the smoking ban actually could turn out to be good for business.

Comments

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re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

You are a rat. A no good, dirty, self occupied rat. Do you own that bar? What right do you have to say what goes on in it? You actually want to waste a large amount of tax payer money enforcing a law that is as stupid as it is worthless. You know there are real crimes going on in Austin, enough that there is no cause to waste a 911!!!! call on a lit ciggarette. That is not an emergency, which I guess you don't realize is what 911 is for.

The rights of the second hand smoker should be trumped by the first ammendment, and its self-centered idiots like you that are handing away our freedoms hand over fist, to support private agendas.

Good luck chasing that cheese you gigantic rat.

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

I tend to agree with Midget.

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

First amendment right to smoke?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Huh????

Actually, I don't see your point in calling the author names. He simply stated that the law was there and thus should be enforced and followed as opposed to simply flaunted. He did not assert that his right to not get cancer trumps your right to light up and inhale. He, in fact, stated the opposite. Nor did he suggest calling 911. He was thankful we have another option.

And to point to the first amendment for your freedom to smoke? Unless it is a religion to you well... then... umm... you have bigger problems.

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

just go to another bar, instead of calling the feds.. geez

did you carry a soapbox with you? just wondering

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

Do you call 911 while driving down the road to report people who are going 10 miles above the speed limit, too?

You know what else you could do for fun? Go downtown and stand by parking meters and wait for them to expire, and then call the police and insist they send somebody over right away to right a ticket.

Seriously, all you needed to do was leave the bar and not come back. Calling the Health and Human Services Department to report the violation? Maybe you can cost that bartendar his job --- I'm sure that would make you feel better.

And if you are going to call it in...have the balls to at least leave your name.

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

You're a self-important moron. I'll bet you're a "Keep Austin Wierd" nazi as well...

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

Obviously, this is a touchy subject. However, the law means nothing (and remember it was a VOTE -- if you don't like it, ask yourself if you even bothered to vote) if it is not enforced.

I teach at Texas State. There is no-smoking policy from the library to Old Main, yet there is always students smoking outside of Old Main. I have a group of students working on a class project to raise awareness of the policy on campus. Recently they conducted a focus group of both smokers and non-smokers and were pretty much told that as long as there was no punishment/enforcement of the policy, students would continue smoking. No one likes to be the heavy when it comes to enforcement. I don't tell the students to stop; students won't tell other students to stop; I don't most of the administration would feel comfortable telling the students to stop. Guess what, the students (and I'm sure some faculty) break the policy.

Smoking will continue in Austin bars as long as Austin bars continue to allow it. It is said that we have to call the authorities to ensure compliance.

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

And if you are going to call it in...have the balls to at least leave your name.

Robbie, I don't think that's a fair call. Any action that occurs will be a result of the finding of a health inspector. All I did, effectively, was request a health inspector to check it out. If action occurs, the evidence will be fully available to them.

It is interesting reading the responses in this thread if you substitute another health hazard, say "cockroaches crawling in the salad bar" for second-hand smoke. Do restaurant owners have a first amendment right to serve us cockroach infested food?

Also to your point, thank you for having the balls to leave a real identity. Nobody else who posted in opposition to my message was willing to do that. And believe me, they have a lot less reason to fear retribution than I do. Just look at how aggressive and unmeasured some of the responses are.

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

Chip, I've been reading your stuff for a long time, and I'm going to support you here, if only to piss off the people who obviously need to step outside and take a deep breath, maybe have a smoke. I do like going to places and not having to breathe a bunch of smoke.

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

By the way, I do not consider any election valid where the City waived the Texas Voting Act so that campaign finance laws would be violated and outside parties could outspend the bars in advertising. The election was rigged so that the anti-smoking group from California would win. Is there an "anonymous" phone number that I can call and report that?

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

{note to self}
When making anonymous tip, do not post to blog.

:)

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

I tend to agree with Chip on this and find most of the negative comments completely unfounded. Chip makes several valid points that are supported by fact.

The majority of the negative comments are attacks based on personal opinion. In fact, they don't even seem to undestand the context of the post.

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

Smoking bans are the real threat to Democracy

The bandwagon of local smoking bans now steamrolling across the nation from sea to sea has nothing to do with protecting people from the supposed threat of second-hand smoke.

blah blah blah ... I deleted rest of unattributed, plagiarized text that was posted as a comment. If you want to read the original, go here. -chip

Thomas Laprade
Thunder Bay, Ont.

re: Recently, in a Smoky Bar

I agree 100% with Midget. You do not own that bar.

You should have lived in East Germany. You would have fit right in with your anonymous reporting to the State.

You can bet that you are not welcome in that bar ever again. The bartender knows who you are.

I hope I am never in a bar with you. You now why? Because when the self-righteous people like you are gone, the rest of us have a lot of fun.

By the way, what was the name of that bar down the street that was packed? I want to make an "anonymous" phone call and report them for a violation of the fire code for being "packed", and get the TABC to put undercover cops in there and get you and the bartenders arrested for public intoxication.

Smoking is heathier than fascism.