The French Inhale

The anti-smoking law continues to be a thorn in the side of nightclubs, bars, and restaurants, and while it doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, the New York Nightlife Association members didn't let that stop them from recently hosting an anti-anti-smoking "Can the Ban" rally. While the organizers were the victims of unfortunate timing—the rally happened a day after Councilman James Davis was shot at City Hall—they still got a respectable turnout. About 1,000 protesters showed up, including representatives from the Whiskey Ward, the Raven Bar, Dive Bar, and Hogs and Heifers, among others, as well as a few who were protesting the protesters. "They had under 50 people," said NYNA president David Rabin. "They literally had school-age kids—not even kids who could drink in a bar anyway."

One of NYNA's foremost opponents is Joe Cherner, a rich businessman who made a fortune as a Wall Street executive by his early thirties and who is the head of SmokeFree Educational Services and the policy chair for the Coalition for a Smoke-Free City. Rabin says that Cherner is the primary force behind Mayor Bloomberg's anti-smoking campaign. The activist—a gay man who was interviewed by Barbara Walters in 2001 about raising two girls with his long-term partner—has used his fortune to buy face time with prominent pols to push his pet topic. The Cherner family, according to a profile in the New York Times last year, must always speak French in the house—and, it appears, they spend most of their time in France, not New York City. They have a website showing them in such glamorous locales as Cannes and Huatulco, with portraits of the happy family taken on the Regal Empress cruise ship.

Cherner, whom Linda Stasi of the New York Post described as "the world's most annoying human, anti-smoking Nazi," seems to be unwilling to keep the no-smoke law confined to public spaces like bars and nightclubs, pushing for even further bans. If Cherner has his way, the only place a person would be allowed to smoke would be in his own home. As a press release for the rally sent out by Centro-Fly said, a "Ban on Sex is Next."

Avenue D takes its sexed-up act to Boy George's party.
photo: Timothy Dowling
Avenue D takes its sexed-up act to Boy George's party.

The smoking ban, club owners tell me, has definitely had a negative effect on their business in a city already hit with hard economic times and an archaic no-dancing law. While Plant Bar has finally reopened, minus DJ booth and "dance floor" (if that's what you wanna call that 10 by 10 space in the back), thanks to violations of that asinine cabaret law, another major club (can't divulge it yet) is going to be closing and renovating. And no, they're not just slapping paint on the place, either.

Incidentally, the building that houses Arc, at 6 Hubert Street, is up for sale for a mere $18 million on Sinvin Realty Corporation's website. Arc's Mike Bindra says that the building has been up for grabs for a while, and it won't likely affect his venue. Whew. Meanwhile, I keep getting invitations to be "fashionably early to the party" at Crobar; the ads are touting an October opening. Here's hoping Crobar fares better than Powder (yeah, remember that place? No? OK.), which, I'm told, sits empty while waiting for a $7 million suitor to come along.

The city seems to have a shortage of real venues, so no wonder bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Gogol Bordello have headed to Europe to push their wares. The latter just got back from a tour overseas, and the Strokes have been roaming Japan. The ladies of Avenue D went back to the motherland after a successful virgin European trip—where they played Berlin during the week of Love Parade at fellow dirty-girl Peaches' party. This past weekend, the two potty-mouthed performers kicked it with none other than Boy George at his posh palace in London; they are also releasing a track on Boy's label, More Protein. Long Island rappers Northern State are taking it to the streets for the Girlz Garage tour (founded by the man behind the Vans Warped tour, Kevin Lyman), hitting New York in October.

Even the DJs are fleeing New York. François K takes his successful Monday-night dub party from Chelsea's Cielo club across the pond, hitting up spots in London and Japan. He'll spin this week at Plastic People in the UK, and play at Tokyo's Club Yellow and Sapporo's Precious Hall at the end of August. Better not tell the rest of Europe how lame NYC is. Otherwise, no one will ever come over here. And then, if you believe The New York Times, we'll all really have to leave Williamsburg.


tromano@villagevoice.com

 
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