A dedicated reader sends us his commentary on an issue being debated in the Minnesota Legislature.
Faced with the growing “theater night” rebellion, Minnesota House legislators have begun the process of throwing a picked-over bone to the starving businesses.

The meager scrap they have so generously offered up is in the form of a “smoking shack” amendment. This would allow owners who have the space and financial resources at their disposal to build a free-standing structure where patrons could smoke. As is usual with these doghouses, patrons could not be served while utilizing them.

The “structure” specifications are apparently undefined as yet, but we have seen this scheme deployed in the past and, in their zeal to avoid “mischief,” here is a likely description of the offal they will offer after the Senate and all the various committees finish with it:

1) Patrons will not be allowed to bring any food or beverage with them into the shack.

2) The wall area allowed (if walls are allowed at all) will be some arbitrary number in the range of 50% … great comfort in a state where the temperature has the potential to drop below zero for five months out of the year

3) The roof area allowed (if roofs are allowed at all) will be some arbitrary percentage. The comical image of smokers drenched or covered in snow will set the direction of jocular legislative debate.

4) The doghouse will have to be “x” number of feet (probably in the 15 to 30 foot range) from any doors, windows, or ventilation openings of the main structure, precluding many establishments from even being able to think about building due to space restrictions.

5) Anti will be counting on the problems outlined in 4 to inspire many owners to decry the “unlevel playing field” and will use this as reason enough to eliminate the shacks within a couple of years.

The Minnesotans pressing the smoking ban issue have fought too long and too courageously to settle for these slim pickings. A total repeal of the ban must be the goal.



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