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At One Minnesota Bar, the Show's Over

Friday, March 14, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS —  The show won't go on at The Rock, a hard-rock and heavy metal bar in suburban Maplewood that has been staging faux theatrical productions to get around Minnesota's smoking ban.

Owner Brian Bauman said the city attorney paid him a visit on Wednesday and told him The Rock's liquor license could be reconsidered by the City Council if the bar keeps up the acts.

"He told me we need to cease what we're doing out here immediately," Bauman said.

The Rock is one of about three dozen bars in Minnesota that began staging the fake productions to exploit a loophole in the law _ which went into effect Oct. 1 _ that exempts performers in theatrical productions. The state Health Department got wind of the shows and announced last week that it would begin cracking down on "theater nights" with fines of as much as $10,000.

A few bars have encouraged their patrons to dress in costume and attempt a little improvisation. Others, like The Rock, have done little more than print cheap playbills to tack over the entrance, listing the patrons as "actors" who are then entitled to smoke.

Several reported a boost in business since they began allowing smoking again.

Maplewood City Attorney Alan Kantrud did not immediately respond Thursday to an Associated Press call seeking comment.

John Stieger, a spokesman for the Health Department, said Thursday the agency didn't know how many bars had stopped putting on theater nights since the threatened crackdown. He said the agency hoped a combination of local law enforcement and the threat of fines would put an end to them.

Bauman said The Rock couldn't risk losing its liquor license, so its final "show" _ dubbed "Before the Ban" _ will be held Sunday, despite the risk.

"Then we'll go back to losing money," he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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