2011/02/17 P-D: “Ritz-Carlton pays fine, says it won’t violate Clayton smoking ban again”

It’s good to see the City of Clayton treat all violators of its comprehensive smoke-free air law equally, including the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and its high rolling cigar smokers. (Well, not quite that high! They don’t have to smoke out on a window ledge.)

Ritz-Carlton pays fine, says it won’t violate Clayton smoking ban again

BY MARGARET GILLERMAN • mgillerman@post-dispatch.com > 314-725-6758 | Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2011 12:05 am | Comments (12 at 12:28 am on 2011/2/17))

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CLAYTON • The Ritz-Carlton St. Louis on Wednesday agreed to pay a fine of $300 and court costs of $26.50 for violating Clayton’s smoking ban by proceeding with the hotel’s annual Cigar Club ball.
         The Ritz also agreed to comply with the city’s ordinance in the future, said Clayton Police Chief Tom Byrne.
         That apparently means the end of the Cigar Club’s annual black-tie ball in the hotel’s ballroom.
         More than 300 people attended the ball on Jan. 22, and smoking was common. The hotel’s lawyers had interpreted a section of the Clayton ordinance — a clause allowing smoking in 20 percent of a hotel’s rooms — to cover the ballroom. (The Ritz does have an exemption for the Cigar Club lounge, but that was too small for the ball.)
         Clayton held that the ballroom was not exempt, and police ticketed Ritz general manager Patrick Franssen that night.
         Neither he nor anyone else in Ritz management could be reached for comment Wednesday.
         But the mood Wednesday afternoon in the Cigar Club lounge was decidedly pro-cigar.
         One customer, who asked not to be identified, lamented the loss of the ball.
         “It’s a very fun event and wonderful evening for members of a private club,” the man said. “As long as hotel guests don’t complain, I think the privacy of the club ought to be respected.” Smoking bans went into effect in both St. Louis and St. Louis County on Jan. 2. Clayton’s smoke-free ordinance went into effect on July 1.
         Mayor Linda Goldstein said last month after the incident that the Clayton Board of Aldermen would review and consider amending the smoking ban ordinance to clarify the wording. She said the management at the Ritz was “very apologetic.”
         The maximum penalties for violating Clayton’s ordinance are a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.

6 responses to “2011/02/17 P-D: “Ritz-Carlton pays fine, says it won’t violate Clayton smoking ban again”

  1. MoGasp, I would agree with you that classifying the ballroom as one of the 20% of smoking rooms was legally a bit of a stretch (heh… a bit?) but as usual I disagree with your take on it. :>

    It’s probably pretty safe to say that at least 200 of the 300 people attending a “Cigar Club” event were probably smoking there that evening. And yet, despite your introductory commentary *none* of the “high rolling cigar smokers” were treated “equally under the law.”

    The police gave out one ticket: to the hotel manager who probably was NOT smoking there that evening.

    This practice of indenturing private business owners and workers to act as unpaid, untrained, uninsured, and unempowered Citizen Vigilante Enforcers of a law under penalty of law is a disgrace to our country and dangerous in terms of the doors it opens to future abuse.

    – MJM

    mogasp response: Have you thought of checking out the enforcement provisions of the law? Your last paragraph seems a bit of a stretch.

  2. I don’t actually know the wording of the law in Clayton, but most of the laws I’ve examined merely require businesses to remove fire-safety devices (ashtrays), post signs, inform smokers of the law, and usually also “ask” them to stop smoking. However, even though that is what the laws may say, they have been generally promoted and interpreteed as laws holding the owners/managers of businesses responsible for people smoking in them because they did not physically throw the smoker out.

    Would you feel it was a viable defense in STL if a bar owner simply asked his customers not to smoke but they did so anyway?

    – MJM

    mogasp reply: I would assume that would only be a partial defense in the case of a bar or restaurant owner or person in charge. I’ve checked the Clayton ordinance, which is enforced by the police, so either the owner/person in charge could call the police or a customer could do so. I have a query in to Clayton to clarify.
    BTW, ashtrays, which you describe as “fire safety devices,” are only needed if people are smoking but providing them in nominally smoke-free places is a bad idea. I have seen a customer smoking when standing underneath a “No Smoking” sign in a store. Why? Because an ashtray had been provided and that was his cue to light up.

  3. Mr. Pion, to what extent are MOGASP’s efforts to ban smoking in St. Louis public places inspired by previous German public smoking laws? Honestly, talk of Clayton police enforcing smoke-free laws makes me nervous, given all that happened in Europe last century!

    http://www.bmj.com/content/313/7070/1450.extract

    mogasp reply: Is this reference to Nazi Germany to be taken seriously?!
    It’s true that opponents of smoke-free air have adopted what amounts to a libel by suggesting that smoke-free air laws are akin to following in the footsteps of Nazi Germany. It’s from the same playbook as suggesting that police enforcing smoke-free air laws in this country are somehow equivalent to Hitler’s thugs. If the police enforce other local ordinances, such as littering or public nuisance, are these laws the prelude to a Nazi-like takeover?
    Your comment is reminiscent of former tobacco lobbyist Victor Crawford who coined the term “Health Nazi.” Thanks for reminding me!

  4. MoGasp, if “asking” the smoker would be only a “partial” defense, then the law would have to specify what was required beyond such asking. And there’s also a big difference between saying that people “could” call the police to report violations such as smoking, littering, or jaywalking, and saying that they are “required” to call the police for such things. When you get the law itself, please do post and discuss the wording.

    And yes, I agree with you on the “cue” thing regarding leaving ashtrays just lying about, but they should certainly be provided to people who are smoking and who are asked to extinguish their cigarettes.

    – MJM

  5. Mr. Pion, the smoking ban movement of which you are a leader has a history that includes Germany in the 1930’s and you need to deal with it. Many of us feel that America today has much in common with Germany then, especially when it comes to these new public smoking laws. We feel that these laws are harbingers of new restrictions to come, much like those suffered in Germany.

    mogasp reply: Quite simply, it’s a warped view of reality.

  6. MoGASP, how can you deny cigars on a night of boxing? How healthy were the punches fighters took that night?

    mogasp reply: Your logic escapes me. Plenty of spectator sports involve potential injury for participants. Should that justify potentially injurious behavior by spectators? Should they be allowed to punch other spectators then?

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