isn't licensed as a restaurant or a bar, but as a tobacco
manufacturer, where smoking is permitted.
(CBS) It looks like a bar.
customers look like they're in a bar.
speaking, it's not.
The sign hanging out front of this
newcomer to Chicago reads "Smokers Welcome" and it's no joke:
smokers are free to light up and puff away, despite being in a city
which, like many others nowadays, has strict anti-smoking laws
covering most public places.
Inside this storefront, not far
from downtown, there is a wet bar and a coffee bar, but for some –
that may not be the main event.
CBS News correspondent
Cynthia Bowers says the establishment's operator has also put in
what's called a "tobacco bar."
"We have got loose tobacco
blends in nine different varieties," says R.J. Reynolds marketing
director Brian Stebbens, "and it is here that the tobacconist can
take those loose blends and... in a two or three minute period...
create a pack of cigarettes to the customers' order."
that sells for $9 doesn't seem to bother people who say it's good
just to be able to exhale out in the open.
enacted its own version of the clean air act, more or less stamping
out smoking in public, including bars. So how do you explain this
place? Where's the loophole? Actually it's more of a smoke ring –
gathering by the tobacco bar where custom cigarettes are being
The business isn't licensed as a restaurant or a
bar, but as a tobacco manufacturer, where smoking is permitted.
Which starts to make sense when you consider the owner is
R.J. Reynolds, the second-largest tobacco
company in the United States. And, as you might imagine, the
cigarette maker is fuming over what it sees as a thinly veiled
attempt to outlaw smoking.
"It is weird," says one happy
customer, John Neiser. "This place is kinda like a speakeasy in a
sense because the smokers all have no place to go."
says R.J. Reynolds vice president Tommy Payne, should not be subject
to restrictions on smoking.
“When you are in an adult
venue,” says Payne, “the government has really overstepped its
bounds by saying it is okay to drink but it is not okay to smoke.”
The mission of the Chicago establishment, says Payne, isn’t
simply to provide a place to light up in public. He says the idea is
to build a premium line of cigarettes – at the tobacco bar.
While executives of the tobacco giant say the timing of all
this is coincidental to Chicago's smoking ban, R.J. Reynolds’ anti-smoking
grandson says he doubts that.
" It really is an
in-your-face effort to say 'Hey, here is a bar where we found a
loophole where you can still smoke.' It is a rebellion on the part
of R.J. Reynolds,” says Patrick Reynolds.
It's also a bit of
a risk. Because for R.J. Reynolds, it's not just about whether these
these high-priced cigarettes will catch on; it's also about whether
they can breathe new life into smoking, something even the tobacco
companies now admit can be deadly.