Irish bar and restaurant owners opposed to what is known as proposed local law 256 will rally on the steps of City Hall at noon before testifying to the health committee that the current compromise on smoking in public places works and that the proposed ban will devastate business.
The health committee will hold hearings from those both opposed to and supportive of the ban, before considering the law’s final shape before it goes to a council-wide vote.
Observers have said that the political climate of city hall favors a ban at the moment, and it received a boost Monday evening when the Nassau County Legislature in Long Island voted to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants.
Pro-ban legislators from Nassau, Westchester and Duchess Counties and New York City have been working to make their bans as uniform as possible. A Nassau legislator, Jeffrey Toback, said: “We are going to steamroller this downstate.”
Bar owners and bartenders have protested the move with several public meetings, but Thursday’s health committee hearing will be the first time that the group, led by the United Restaurant Owners and Liquor Dealers of New York, will be able to put its case to the committee that a ban will hurt business.
Spokesman for the URLD Brian Rohan said, “A whole bunch of people will take the message to City Hall, that this will be bad for businesses and bad for our neighborhoods — restaurant owners, employees, community board members.”
Rohan listed the several issues that the proposed ban could create for the city.
“There will be public-order issues if people have to go outside of a bar to smoke,” he said. “There will be laughing, noise, talk and congestion on a 6- or 10-foot-wide sidewalk, with maybe 15 or 20 people outside smoking. There could be staffing issues with doormen having to police people going out for cigarettes every few minutes.
“In California a lot of bars will have parking lots where people go to smoke. Here, they’ll have to smoke on the sidewalk.”
Rohan also said that veterans groups were angry after it was realized that the Bloomberg ban would extend to the private drinking clubs where they often meet.
“If you are a bar owner, a bartender, or a musician, or in any way connected to the bar business, or worried about how the ban will affect your neighborhood, come on down to City Hall at noon on Thursday,” Rohan added.
One bartender at McCormack’s on Third Avenue, who said his name was Sean, said that no one from his bar was able to attend the meeting because they are short-staffed.
He agreed that he is concerned about the ban and its affect on business.
“I am working, everyone is working, so no one’s free to go. But the ban will be a disaster,” he said.
About a dozen Sunnyside bar and restaurant owners met Tuesday with Councilwoman Helen Sears who represents Jackson Heights and Corona in Queens to protest the ban.