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A Restaurant By Any Other Name

SCMP – Public Eye

Have our courts gone crazy? First we have a judge who ruled in favour of dogs that drive you mad with their non-stop yelping and now we have another who says a restaurant is not really a restaurant if it sells a lot of booze. Huh?

By that same logic, a bar is probably not a bar if it doesn’t sell enough booze. Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes’ ruling involves three establishments that claimed they made more money from alcohol than food and so should be exempt from the smoking ban that applies to restaurants.

It is true that our smoking ban law contains a really stupid loophole that lets establishments off the hook until the end of next June if they’re genuine bars. The loophole was included, at the insistence of the once arrogant but now humbled Liberal Party for big business, which got thrashed in last month’s elections. Big business would rather sell cigarettes and keep the cash register ringing at bars than stop people from getting cancer. But all that aside, shouldn’t judges uphold the spirit of the smoking ban law rather than the right of establishments to exploit the loophole?

This is how one of the three establishments involved describes itself on its website: “The Bull & Bear has full catering facilities and serves full meals throughout the day such as bangers and mash, fish and chips and steak and ale pie catering to breakfast, lunch and dinner patrons.” That’s not a restaurant? For goodness sake.

Many of these “bars” operate a scam – full-blown restaurants during lunch that morph into bars in the evening. It’s easy to expand on the scam – reasonably-priced set lunches but costlier evening drinks. This makes the alcohol revenue higher which then qualifies them for the smoking ban loophole. It’s a nice little number, even Public Eye has to admit.

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