Minnesota Bar Gets Smoking Ban Ticket Despite 'Theater Night' Loophole

A bar owner in Babbitt who was cited for hosting a "theater night" to get around the statewide smoking ban says he'll fight the citation in court.

Tom Marinaro proudly framed his citation — which his attorney says is the first one issued in connection with "theater night" — and hung it on the wall at Tank's Bar.

Babbitt police gave Marinaro the $300 petty misdemeanor ticket on Friday. A patron who was smoking in the bar was also given a ticket.

Tank's Bar, like other bars in the state, has hosted "theater night" to get around a law that bans smoking in workplaces, including taverns and restaurants. A loophole in the law allows actors and actresses to smoke as part of a theatrical production, so several bar owners have hosted performances so patrons can smoke indoors.

Marinaro's attorney, Mark Benjamin, said he'll argue that the theatrical production clause in the law is unconstitutionally vague.

Marinaro, who has owned Tank's for five years, said the smoking ban cut his business by 30 percent. Business has improved since Tank's Bar began holding performances of "Gunsmoke Monologues" starting at 3 p.m. every day.

"It's not all the way, but it's definitely up," he said.

The Minnesota Department of Health addressed the issue of theater nights on March 5, saying bars hosting such nights are violating the spirit of the smoking ban.