First bar where smoking is legal?
When the smoking ban for bars was introduced last year, it hit Groningen bar De Balk as hard as any other café. Owner Aethne McGhie, originally from Scotland, turned a storage room into a smoking room, but the result was that the bar area itself looked absolutely dead. Her remaining customers came up with an idea: why not turn things around, move the actual bar into the storage room, and the former bar area into the smoking area. And so it was done. The result is that people now have to walk to the former storage room to get their drinks, but, McGhie told Parool (Dutch), even the toughest customers soon learned how to play nice.
The professional busy bodies who have to enforce the ban on fun, the Voedsel en Warenautoriteit (VWA), grudgingly admitted to De Telegraaf (Dutch) that this ploy is actually legal. “But we wouldn’t necessarily call it a legal bar,” a spokesperson said. Turns out that they found a technicality with which they can still cause problems for De Balk. Apparently, the law that says that a room where drinks are served must have a minimal size hasn’t been adapted to take the new circumstances that the smoking ban created into account.
Another entity that won’t call De Balk “the first legal smoking bar” is perhaps not surprisingly Hiermaghetwel.nl (Dutch), the website that keeps track of all the bars in the Netherlands where you can legally smoke. They point out that Café Populair in Amsterdam was the first to come up with the idea of a small bar section and large smoking area, way back in September last year (AT5, Dutch).
Source photo: Google Street View, a Dutch version of which was introduced a couple of days ago.