Lighting up in taverns under fire

Although smoking in bars was banned by the state in 1998, some drinking establishments, including a handful in San Francisco, have escaped the prohibition by taking advantage of a labor code loophole that one city supervisor said he hopes to close.

The state labor code prohibits exposing employees’ to secondhand smoke. However, if a bar is owner-operated, does not have other employees and has successfully applied with the Department of Public Health to allow smoking, it is legal, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

City health department officials could not immediately provide the number of bars permitted to allow smoking in San Francisco, but spokeswoman Eileen Shields said it was only “a few.”

One of the exempted bars is Whiskey Thieves, located on Geary Street, near Hyde Street, confirmed co-owner Noelle Cahill.

“It’s a haven for people who smoke and they make their choice to come here,” Cahill said.

Alexandra Hernandez, co-chair of the San Francisco Tobacco Free Coalition, said the bars were getting an undue break from the law.

“Bars are public places and should be smoke-free just like all other businesses,” Hernandez said.

San Francisco’s bar smoking days could be numbered. Supervisor Chris Daly is expected to introduce legislation today that would prohibit smoking in all bars, regardless of whether they are owner-operated.

The bill also includes a number of other tougher restrictions on smoking, including a ban of smoking at farmers markets, in ticket lines for events or ATMs, and 20 feet from private buildings’ exits, entrances and operable windows. These restrictions are similar to those recently adopted in neighboring cities, such as Emeryville and Oakland.

The bill would require a public hearing at board committee and then avote whether to adopt the law by the full Board of Supervisors.

In the last decade, more than 30 states have passed legislation that prohibits smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants.

Californians are not the only smokers having trouble giving up the smoke-and-drink combo.

In Minnesota, a recent statewide ban on smoking in restaurants and bars has proprietors and patrons creatively exploiting a loophole in that law, which provides an exception for performers in theatrical productions. Bars are reportedly getting around the ban by printing posters advertising performances and telling patrons to show up in costume.

jsabatini@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces charges against former SFPD Officer Christopher Samoyoa in the 2017 fatal shooting of Keita O’Neill at a press conference outside the Hall of Justice on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
DA Boudin charges fired SFPD officer with manslaughter over fatal shooting

Ex-Officer Christopher Samayoa to face criminal charges in killing of Keita O’Neil

The area near the Castro Muni Metro Station is expected to be affected by construction work on the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with lane closures on Market Street and some loss of parking. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Construction on Twin Peaks Tunnel to begin November 30

Area around Castro Muni Station will see greatest impacts including lane closures on Market Street

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, during a news conference on March 10, 2020. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
LA County suspends outdoor dining at restaurants as coronavirus surges

By Alex Wigglesworth Los Angeles Times Los Angeles County public health officials… Continue reading

Renderings of the main entrance to upcoming Mission Bay elementary school on Owens Street. (Courtesy photo)
SFUSD offers first look at planned Mission Bay elementary school

San Francisco school officials this month unveiled the design of a planned… Continue reading

James Coleman (Courtesy Morgan McCarthy)
Young progressive set to shake up South City

The 21-year-old is the newest Councilmember for District 4

Most Read