NYC Gets Serious on Smoking Ban Violations

New York City’s Department of Health is done playing around with venue owners who continue to allow patrons to disregard the stringent non-smoking laws that have been in place since 2003. Five nightclubs were called to meet with a tribunal last week, including the popular M2 Ultra Lounge, Lit Lounge and The Imperial, after undercover DOH representatives found patrons smoking inside each of the venues.

With the venues’ liquor permits in jeopardy, the DOH announced it is no longer willing to make deals or negotiate with venues that continually violate the law. "I'm not going to do that when I'm not confident they can't commit to the Smoke-Free Air Act,” Thomas Merrill, the DOH’s general counsel, told the Daily News.

After Merrill met with representatives from The Imperial, it became apparent just how serious the city is about the situation. While nothing was official as of press time, it is believed The Imperial will get one last chance to stop smokers, — but that chance will come along with thousands of dollars in fines and the understanding that permits will be pulled if the club is busted again.

At M2 however, DOH spies allegedly saw and photographed bouncers speaking to customers smoking cigars, servers and bartenders serving patrons with lit cigarettes and loose smokes being peddled in the bathrooms for $2 apiece. Club owner Joey Morrisey countered that he has been proactive and “tried everything” to stop smokers from lighting up, short of taking away cigarettes and tossing out offenders. Besides, he told the Daily News, throwing smokers out would just lead to fights. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a defense that city officials will find plausible.

While the four other venues were given a month to prepare for the tribunal meeting, M2 is currently without permit and seems mired in an uphill battle to be able to re-open. If it doesn’t re-open, one of the last parties to be held at the club is seriously ironic: the Sweet 16 Birthday Bash for Justin Dior Combs, aka Diddy’s son, which was filmed by MTV just last weekend.

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