Bending the Rules on Smoking Bans

<p>Bars in Minneapolis have found a workaround to evade the state's ban on smoking in bars: stage "theater nights" and let all patrons be "actors" in a show that allows smoking.</p>
February 27, 2008, 5am PST | Nate Berg
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"Dozens of bars are expected to stage 'theater nights' this weekend in which patrons are dubbed actors. The law, which went into effect in October, permits performers to smoke during a theatrical production. "Two weeks ago, we had one bar doing this,'' said Mark Benjamin, a criminal defense attorney who launched the theater-night idea. He estimates 50 to 100 bars could be on tap for theater nights this weekend based on phone calls, e-mails and requests for the how-to-stage-a-theater-night packet that he's devised. And many bar owners are passing on the information quickly among themselves without getting in contact with him."

"State Health Department officials didn't return calls Thursday, but said earlier this week that they are waiting for a state attorney general's opinion on the legality of theater nights. State legislators who championed the ban said last week that the loophole likely will be plugged and the bar theater nights will end."

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Published on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 in Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune
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