DC groups link up to fight hospitality smoking ban

WASHINGTON: Restaurant, bar, and nightclub owners have united to fight a new attempt by the DC City Council to impose a mandatory smoking ban at all hospitality and nightlife establishments.

WASHINGTON: Restaurant, bar, and nightclub owners have united to fight a new attempt by the DC City Council to impose a mandatory smoking ban at all hospitality and nightlife establishments.

Three groups - Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, DC Licensed Beverage Association, and Committee for a Living DC - are sponsoring a campaign to stress that the overwhelming majority of jurisdictions that have enacted smoking bans make exceptions for restaurants and bars.

The latest ads have appeared in the Washington City Paper and the Washington Blade. The DC City Council, which first debated a smoking ban in 2003, is scheduled to consider the new legislation on December 6.

Mark Lee, an independent special events producer and a leader of the antiban effort, said residents are largely unaware that the legislation is moving forward. "The process has unfolded relatively quietly," he said.

The ad campaign, he said, is part of the hospitality industry's effort to "express their fear, panic, and outrage" about the proposed ban. "There's no question that the council members and staff are aware of our position and any time we can increase that awareness by putting things into print, it's certainly helpful," said Lynne Breaux, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

Antismoking advocates say similar smoking bans in cities like New York have not caused any loss of business. But antiban activists in DC cite other statistics that indicate many restaurants in those areas have been forced to close.

"We call it dueling studies," Breaux said. "Whoever funds the studies gets the result that they want."

The three DC groups also are working on a separate public awareness push, to be unveiled this winter, that will spotlight the role that hospitality nightlife businesses have in enhancing the cultural amenities of their neighborhoods, Lee said.

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