Pub tries to skirt smoking ban

January 28, 2008 5:28:25 PM PST
Smoking is banned in bars and restaurants all across Houston, but we found some places where people are still lighting up. At least one bar in the Houston area is asking people to sign a waiver to smoke. But it's not a legal way to get around the citywide ban. That has city leaders taking action.

If you want to light up at your favorite Houston bar you'll be relegated to outside patios, unless you come to Henry Hudson's Pub in far west Houston, apparently.

We visited the bar after we were handed an apparent waiver by a customer who saw smokers signing the paper and then lightning up indoors. Kevin, who didn't want to tell us his last name, is the manager.

"This is a non-smoking establishment," he said. "I'm not going to kick them out if they smoke in my bar."

Kevin has patrons sign a waiver. We showed it to Kathy Barton with the Houston Health Department.

"It's nonsense," she said. "This has no validity."

Barton says the only establishments that allow smoking are cigar bars that have applied for a license. So far, no place inside Houston's borders qualify.

"There are no waivers for smoking in public places in the city of Houston," Barton explained.

Henry Hudson's is less than a mile from the county line. Just down the street, Tequila Lopez offers a perfectly legal smoking section.

Manager Pepe Lopez explained, "Here we provide them with an area where they can smoke. We have non-smoking in the diner, and we have smoking in the bar, and we have the patio, too."

Kevin admits competition is one reason the bar is defying the smoking ban. They even use red plastic cups as ashtrays. But the manager of Henry Hudson's insists he is doing nothing wrong.

He said, "We're abiding by all smoking laws."

Health department officials tell Eyewitness News they are planning to visit Henry Hudson's Pub to explain the rules.

Since the smoking ban went into effect last September, the city tells us they have written one ticket, and given out more than 50 warnings. Violators could face up to a $2,000 fine.

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