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Cigarettes become props at Minn. tavern

Feb. 11, 2008 at 6:58 PM

GARRISON, Minn., Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Minnesota bans smoking in bars but one tavern is trying to get around it by turning itself into a stage, its customers into actors and cigarettes into props.

When state lawmakers enacted the ban last year they included an exemption for theatrical performances. That inspired non-smoking lawyer Mark Benjamin to seek out the owners of Barnacle's Resort on the shore of Lake Mille Lacs, who liked the idea, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Monday.

Now every Saturday night -- until authorities stop them -- the bar, in theory, becomes a smoke-filled theater production.

"You are looking at a stage. You are looking at a playhouse," Benjamin told the newspaper. "Those are not cigarettes -- those are props."

"Playbills" are printed up and the customer-actors each buy "ACT NOW!" buttons for $1.

Co-owner Sheila Kromer says business had been down and she wanted to test the law.

"Several of the legislators said, 'You know, you've got to be innovative. Come up with something to get the people in your bar.' Right? OK. What's wrong with a theater night? Is that not being creative?" Kromer said.

Local police say they won't step in unless someone complains, but the state Legislature convenes Tuesday.

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