The Department of Health's Crackdown on Smoking in Nightclubs Like Lit and M2 Imperils Jobs, Hurts Those It Purports to Help
City tribunals did real damage to Chelsea's not-so-admirable M2 Ultra Lounge last month when the Department of Health moved to have the place shut down for violating Bloomberg's stringent anti-smoking restrictions. (Though at the moment, M2 remains very much open.) A bunch of others--including the East Village's ambiguously beloved Lit Lounge and downtown drug n' burlesque spot the Box--were given a month to lawyer up and prepare their cases after city inspectors caught them chock full of unrepentant smokers. (Thankfully, Lit seems to have taken our advice and cleaned up their website.) Those hearings are coming up, and could potentially result in the closing of any number of nightlife institutions in NYC. As New York's Daily Intel notes, this move has every likelihood of resulting in more harm than good.
This is because the people who will be hurt by the closing (as opposed to fining) of these clubs are exactly the same people Bloomberg's legislation was ostensibly supposed to protect. Daily Intel talked to Joey Morrissey, M2's embattled managing owner:
I knew there was going to be a crackdown," says Joey Morrissey, M2's managing owner. For a mayor who's admitted he scowls at smokers on the street, the Times story [about smoking in clubs] couldn't have been easy to ignore. But tight door policies prevent health inspectors from consistently entering some of the upscale venues like Goldbar that were featured in the article; instead they've targeted larger, more accessible clubs like M2. After the story, Morrissey says, city officials hung around "every night we were open for two weeks." Now its 300 employees may be out on the street.
Here we have city employees doing everything they can to force everyone in the entire M2 empire into unemployment. These are the same bartenders and bouncers Bloomberg was supposedly acting for in 2002 when he announced the Smoke-Free Air Act, boasting "New York [now] extends protections from secondhand smoke to all its workers." The irony of course being that under the crackdown the city is pursuing now, there are about to be hundreds fewer workers to protect. "We needed a new strategy because clubs have plans in place where they scurry around picking up ashtrays when we show our badges at the door," deputy commissioner of health Dan Kass told New York, before adding that "ticketing smokers rather than relying on clubs to enforce the rule would require building a much larger staff at taxpayer expense." That may be, but doing so by slimming your overall taxpayer base just doesn't seem like the savviest solution, does it?