As of today, you can no longer legally smoke a cigarette inside a bar in the world’s drinking capital, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Perhaps you gasped upon reaching the very end of that sentence. City after city have dealt Big Tobacco the harsh blow of banning indoor smoking. But other cities don’t lure in tourist dollars by aggressively advertising a “do watcha wanna”, laissez les bon temps rouler, attitude. An indoor smoking ban here – which also forbids “vaping” – will reap consequences as unique as New Orleans’s cultural ecosystem itself.
“You just opened up a can of whupass on lots of neighbors in the city,” says Nick Scramuzza, one of three owners of Lost Love Lounge in New Orleans’s Marigny neighborhood. Scramuzza doesn’t look forward to the new noise complaints he’ll receive when half of his customers end up spending their time five feet outside his door (the legally mandated distance) enjoying that holy trinity of smoking, drinking and carrying on. Nor is he necessarily in favor of the government bossing everyone around in such a sweeping manner. “But I wake up with a hangover just from working around the smoke,” Scramuzza shrugs. “So I’m excited about the ban.”
As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, New Orleans city government has, since Hurricane Katrina, begun trying to prune some of its cultural shrubbery, turning down the volume a bit. Abetted by uptight neighborhood groups, the city has begun policing bars and nightclubs more strictly, while at the same time fighting a protracted battle to implement a new “noise ordinance” (read: music ordinance) while also debating an impending Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance for the entire city that, to some residents’ dismay, creates more permissive music laws in some instances.
“This is just the wrong time for them to have pursued something like this,” rails William Walker, another of Lost Love Lounge’s owners who, for reasons of personal choice and personal inconvenience, hates the anti-smoking law. “Forcing people outside the bar to smoke is going to exacerbate the tension that’s already there. And when they look to fix that problem, what they will say is ‘no go-cups’, which the neighborhood groups are already working on …”
Lost Love Lounge lives in a relatively quiet residential-seeming neighborhood – as do many of New Orleans’s best bars and some of its live music spots. This neighborly coexistence is a big part of what makes New Orleans different, and charming like some alcoholic Sesame Street. Recently though, this unique social contract has become unacceptable for those they call nimbys (Not In My Backyard), and the fate of New Orleans’s musical personality feels at stake. CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST AT The Guardian…
Or watch this video of the SMOKING Time Jazz Club playing on Royal Street: