Monday, July 30, 2007

Fish and chips without smoke

Last week we felt like having a bit of fish and chips, so we went off to our favorite Irish pub. Sean Patrick’s is not far from our house, and a pleasant place to visit, and with Guinness on tap it can’t be all bad.

Please notice the 'Great Food' part of the sign.

But we ran into our first experience with the relatively new no smoking regulations here in Nevada. At our last general elections there was an item on the ballot that would ban smoking at establishments that served food. Nevada is one of those states where anything can get on the ballot, as long as the sponsors can get enough signatures on a petition. California does the same thing, and they have had quite a few unusual items there. This is a provision that lets the ‘ordinary’ people propose things, when you can’t get your government to pass laws that you want.

So the smoking ban was a big one. But the casinos thought it might cost them business, as lots of people like to smoke and drink while gambling. The proposed law was changed to not restrict smoking at establishments that had a Class One gaming license, which covers casinos with table games or more than fifteen slot machines. Class One licenses are not required for the small bar or the supermarket that might have a row of slot machines. It is also an expensive license that also requires a lot of bookkeeping and reporting.

So the law passed, and as expected it had no affect on the big places. But it did have quite an affect on the smaller places. Some businesses with bars that served food thus had a big choice; either continue to serve food and make the smokers go outside, or to stop serving food. This was one consequence that was not widely advertised during the campaign before the election, but was much discussed after passage. We read about smaller bars that decided they made more money off the smokers sitting and drinking and playing video poker than they did off of the food. Supposedly a lot of food handlers would find themselves out of work. There were some news articles back when the law became effective, last January. But our visit to SP was our first introduction to this.

Several places just ignored the law. They did take away ash trays and matches, but nothing in the law says the owners have to enforce it. And the police have been declining to do anything about it, they felt time was better spent on other crimes. The law just provides for civil penalties, I think a $100 fine per smoker, but the penalty is assessed against the smoker, not the establishment. Kind of like a parking ticket or something. So far no one has been given one of these tickets yet.

But SP decided to enforce the regulation. Believing that they would lose more business if they kicked the smokers out they thus stopped serving food. Evidently we haven’t been to SP in quite a number of months (don’t know when they did this, I don’t think it was back in January) we were surprised to find a little sign inside that said ‘No Food’. So much for our fish and chips and Guinness.

But then B remembered another pub, one that we had been to once, and she had been to with her Red Hat group. This was McMullan’s Irish Pub, down across from the Orleans.

That's the Orleans across the street on the left, and off in the distance you can see the Empire State Building of New York New York down on the Strip, about two miles away.

It was a little too dark inside for photos, and I didn’t want to disturb the others with a flash while they were eating.

McMullan’s took a more expensive tack. As their restaurant area was larger than the bar area, and they always advertised the food, they didn’t want to go in either of the above directions. So they built a wall between the bar and the restaurant and changed their air conditioning systems so as to keep smoke away from the eaters. Basically they became two different businesses sharing the building. But bar patrons are still free to walk through the door and order food as take out, then carry it back into the bar and continue to smoke and drink while they ate. The law just prevents establishments from serving food where smoking is allowed, it does not prevent people from eating food there. A story in yesterday’s paper discussed other bars, that started placing menus on the bar from local food places that would deliver there, thus also avoiding the serving law.

So we ended up with our fish and chips and Guinness, and the evening was good.


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