The ban originally came into power on March 30, but Bloomberg said he had ordered health inspectors to use the month of April to warn owners and employers that they risked fines if they did not ease patrons towards complying with a completely smoke-free environment.
As of Monday, however, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said that no fines had been issued, although 331 complaints had been received, many on the city’s tip-off phone line where patrons who spot smokers can alert health inspectors.
Some bar owners were already losing business because they implemented the full ban on March 30, whereas neighboring bars took the extra month’s advantage — and the customers.
Several bar owners in this situation expressed the hope that the marked downturn in business that has been seen since March 30 would be corrected, now that the ban has full effect in all establishments.
Another unintended effect of the smoking ban has been the so-called smoke-and-scram phenomenon where patrons at restaurants have gone outside for a cigarette after their meal and then left without paying their tab.
Residents who live near or above bars have also complained that often large and noisy crowds of smokers congregating outside bars late at night are keeping them awake.
Last Thursday, Assemblyman Jonathan Bing held a meeting in an eastside synagogue where he invited bar owners and residents from his district to discuss the impact the ban was having on businesses and on quality of life.
The smoking ban met with some opposition as it was being debated in the City Council, but most bar owners appeared to accept the ban as inevitable. The ban, however, did allow some loopholes, such as permitting the city’s eight cigar bars to let smoking continue, and the possibility that owner-operated bars would be able to allow smoking if they chose.
But recently New York State Gov. George Pataki signed an even stricter statewide ban that covers New York City also. This ban will take effect in July.
Many bars across the city reported that takings were down and in some cases owners have had to lay off staff. Some have sharply criticized the mayor for the impact on their business, but other owners have welcomed the ban on the same grounds as the mayor championed his ban that it will save the lives of employees and patrons who may otherwise have suffered ill effects from secondhand smoke.
When the statewide ban takes effect, New York will join Delaware and California as having the nation’s strictest anti-smoking laws.