The Washington D.C., City Council on Tuesday passed an amendment that will exempt hotels from the current smoking ban and allow them to host a special cigar-smoking event once per year.
Introduced by Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, the Special Event Exemption Emergency Act of 2010, which passed the council vote by a 10-3 margin, contains language outlining how a hotel can gain an exemption.
Firstly, 500 or more people must be attending the event and the hotel must have a space big enough to host this number of guests. Secondly, a hotel will need to notify the Department of Health before the cigar event and pay a fee of $250.
"It needs to be a big event," said Evans.
The councilman was referring to the annual St. Patrick's Day dinner put on by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a social organization that includes many of Washington's elite Irishmen.
For the past 81 years, this organization has met on March 17 to celebrate, and toast, the patron saint of Ireland.
"The tradition is you have brandy and a cigar," said Evans. "To eliminate cigars would be ludicrous."
The amendment, though, is only temporary, lasting until the end of 2010. In Washington D.C., emergency legislation usually stays in effect for 90 days, but the councilman was able to extend the special cigar-event measure.
"This is the law of the land for 270 days," said Evans. The councilman wanted the emergency law to also protect a large charity event called Fight Night.
The event, which is scheduled for Nov. 11, brings together titans of the business, entertainment and political world to enjoy a night of boxing, cigars and auctions to raise money for Fight for Children, a nonprofit organization. The charity focuses on providing quality education to low-income children in the Washington D.C., area. Last year's Fight Night raised over $2.8 million.
Evans fears this event would move if his legislation is not still in effect.
"One of the real problems is they will leave D.C. and go to Maryland," said Evans. "We don't want to see it move to Prince George's County."