Smoke for Me, But Not for Thee

Bars and restaurants here in Washington, D.C. have operated under a smoking ban for a little over two years now. As many bar owners have discovered, that ban is very strict – unless, of course, you’re a member of the D.C. city council.

According to this morning’s Examiner, Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans has introduced a measure to specifically exempt a private club of which he is a member – the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick – from the ban so they can continue to celebrate the feast day of their eponymous saint with both Irish whiskey and cigars, as they have in the past.

The city’s smoke-free law provides an economic hardship waiver for struggling bars and restaurants, Evans said, but it leaves no wiggle room for a single event, like the St. Patrick’s Day gala or Fight Night at the Washington Hilton.

“Once a year, 1,000-plus people go there to drink Irish whiskey, smoke cigars and have dinner,” Evans said of the dinner. “Now they’re not allowed to do that. From my reading of the law there’s no other way to get an exemption but to legislate.”

Evans is a member of the Friendly Sons organization, though he claims not to partake in the cigar end of the toasting tradition. He said he was not approached by anyone to introduce the bill.

Funny, isn’t it, how politicians can vote for laws that everyone else has to live by, but find it perfectly reasonable to make exceptions for themselves. Even more interesting in this case is that Evans’ proposal is being blocked by fellow Councilman David Catania, who is the chairman of the Council’s health committee. Not to worry though – Evans has a plan.

Evans responded that he might move the measure as an emergency to skirt Catania’s panel. He would need nine votes to get it through the whole body. He’s got one in Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells.

“Absolutely no concern,” Wells said. “I think that having some flexibility is part of good government.”

So in order to ram through a special favor for one particular group, Evans is going to label this measure – one designed to allow a bunch of middle-aged white guys to smoke cigars indoors – an “emergency”? That’s not the kind of change I was hoping for.