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Smoke Signals

Club owners plot how to blow holes in Bloomberg's smoking law.

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With Bloomberg's Great New York Smokeout looming, club owners—desperate to keep smokers indoors and buying drinks—are thinking inside the box. A very hazy box.

The law, which goes into effect March 30, provides a few loopholes. A club can erect an enclosed "smoking room" with a separate ventilation system, and employees can enter it only if there's been no smoking for fifteen minutes. So what else to do?

BRAND-NEW ROOM
Noah Tepperberg, co-owner of Suite 16 and the Strategic Group, a nightlife marketing company, is pitching an unusual proposal to tobacco companies like Brown & Williamson (Kool and Lucky Strike): Help fund "modular" smoking rooms in exchange for "branding space." "Rather than build a new room, I can assemble it in one day," says Tepperberg. A 350-square-foot prototype is being designed by Andy Kostas, who also designed Suite 16.

THE VIP TREATMENT
The owners of Chelsea's Wye Bar and Sessa plan to follow David Sarner, co-owner of Rehab, in the downtown Time Cafe, who's turning his VIP room into a smoking den for $30,000—though where that leaves nonsmoking celebs is unclear (paging Christy Turlington!).

TRADING IN SIN
Since the law is supposed to protect employees' lungs, some owners are contemplating giving minor ownership stakes to all their barkeeps and coat-check girls. That's also the only way that private clubs like the new Soho House (see above) can allow smoking—unless members are happy to empty their own Silk Cut–filled ashtrays.

TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Twenty-five percent of an outdoor area can be designated for smoking, so Chelsea club owner Amy Sacco is opening an outdoor dining patio in front of Lot 61 this spring, but faces a bigger challenge at her small, exclusive, very Euro-friendly Bungalow 8. There she's taking a wishful view of "separate ventilation system": "I could always open the skylight . . ."


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