Did Juggling Gypsy really find a loophole in the smoking ban?

Reported by Kristy Ondo - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Under the new statewide smoking ban, hookah bars are being put out.

Juggling Gypsy Cafe and Hookah bar in downtown Wilmington thought they had figured out a way around the law to keep their business smoking.

Wilmington hookah bar defies smoking ban with "reality show"

Bar manager Denny Best saw an exemption in the law for actors on a live production set.  So, he set up a web cam, had patrons sign performance waivers, streamed them live online, and viola - a live production set.

But, according to New Hanover County Attorney Wanda Copley, Best is acting on an exemption that doesn't exist.

There are different sections of the NC Public Smoking Ban that only apply in certain situations.

Click here to see the law

Section number 130A-498 (page 4) , says local government may prohibit smoking in public places.  Meaning, New Hanover County officials can choose additional places to add to the smoking ban.

Copley explained if county officials decided to add more regulations in the area, they would not be allowed restrict smoking in certain places, like private residents, cigar bars, and "a motion picture, television, theater, or other live production set."

Because no additional smoking regulations have been passed at this time, the exemption Juggling Gypsy is trying to act on is null, according to the county attorney.

Copley says the business is currently breaking the state law and could face a $200 fine.

Best heard Copley's argument but still says the Gypsy is exempt as an "entertainment parlor/production set" not a bar or restaurant.

"I am more than willing to take this to court, and I'll ramp it up a step here," said Best.  "I'll not only defeat Wanda Copley in a court of law. I'll defeat her in a court of public opinion."

Copley says the Health Department would have to make a recommendation to county commissioners to add restrictions to the smoking ban.  Next, commissioners would have to vote on the additional ordinance.  If it passed, then Juggling Gypsy could act under the exemption.

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