Friday, March 7, 2008

Unintended Consequences

Baltimore police are targeting smokers for loitering outside bars, because due to the statewide smoking ban, the can't smoke inside bars.

The Examiner piece looks at the issue with bars on 36th Ave. in Hampden, home of the "Hon," as in "downyavenue hon."

Banished smokers taking nicotine breaks outside bars in one of Baltimore City’s trendy neighborhoods are being told to move or face fines and arrest for loitering, bar owners said. Hampden bar owners said they were shocked last week when police began warning patrons to move 150 feet away from the entrance of bars they were patronizing or face loitering charges.

“Loitering has always been a legitimate problem in the neighborhood that we couldn’t get police to deal with,” said Benn Ray, owner of Atomic Books and head of the Hampden Village Merchants Association. “So why all of sudden is the Police Department being aggressive with smokers when they haven’t been enforcing loitering laws for 10 years?”

Ray said drug addicts, prostitutes and even dealers can be seen prowling the area around his store on the main drag in Hampden.


As a resident of Wyman Park, which the cab drivers call "HamRo" (too good for Hampden not good enough for Roland Park), 36th Ave is a main thoroughfare for me. I can tell you that Mr. Ray is absolutely correct, just take an evening drive on "The Avenue" and the addicts and prostitutes are there for all to see, amidst all the trendy shops and boutiques.

In fact, one Hampden building on West 36th was the home of the aptly named Stash House Records. You may remember that the Stash House was studio for Baltimore rappers Deon Lionnel Smith, and Walter Oriley Poindexter who ran a violent heroin ring out of the building. Smith and Poindexter were the targets of slain federal prosecutor Jonathan Luna the night he died.

Baltimore police have more important, and more dangerous people to target than smokers forced out-of-doors by the state government. Where do you draw the line on this? I can tell you this there are two types of addicts on the Avenue and those the police should be concerned with are not the one's sucking on Marlboro Lights.

I'm reminded of Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct "What are you gonna do? Charge me with smoking?" Although, I wouldn't be surprised if this happens.

Geli Ioannou, owner of Zissimos, a bar on the Avenue said it best

“First the state raises taxes, and then we have a smoking ban, and now I have to deal with this,” said Ioannou standing outside his bar as a customer took a midafternoon smoke break. “It makes no sense to harass my customers and ignore drug addicts and prostitutes.”

1 comment:

Daniel said...

One thing we learned in a management seminar recently is that smokers fall into a 'non-protected' category.

This essentially means an argument of discrimination or prejudice against a smoker is not considered as an issue it is with others due to race, religion, handicap, ethnicity, etc.

So, smokers can be corralled into areas and 'picked on' because there is nothing legally, and policy wise, defined to protect them.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.