'Theater night' bar cited for violating smoking ban

Smoking sign
Sign alerts patrons that smoking will happen during the performance.
MPR Photo/Jessica Mador

Tank's Bar in Babbitt, Minnesota, is the first bar to receive a ticket for staging a so-called "theater night" in violation of the statewide smoking ban.

The bar is one of dozens around the state that have been holding such nights. Current state law bans smoking in restaurants and bars, but it allows smoking for theatrical productions.

The ticket was issued Friday to bar owner Thomas Marinaro.

Marinaro's attorney Mark Benjamin said despite the penalty, the bar plans to continue holding theater night out of necessity.

Attorney Benjamin said he was thankful for the opportunity the ticket presented.

"We've been waiting, so that we can show to the rest of the world that this is a perfectly legal activity and that the smoking ban, as written, is currently unenforceable," said Benjamin.

Arraignment is scheduled for April 4. But attorney Benjamin said he plans to request a trial where he will ask for the case to be dismissed.

He said he will base this request on the grounds that the smoking ban's theatrical exemption is "vague."

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