Bloomberg bans free coffee

The latest bit of nanny state over-reaching comes from New York City, where authorities have decided to take yet another pleasure away from cigar smokers:

The owner of a Financial District tobacco shop was amazed to learn he was violating the law by offering his customers a free cup of joe while they legally puffed away on his cigars. […]

Health officials had no problem with all the cigars his customers were puffing on — a handful of businesses, including Nastri’s, are exempt from Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-smoking laws — but decided a $9,000 coffee machine was grounds for closing the place down. […]

Nastri found himself in a classic Catch-22 situation.

To serve coffee — even free coffee — he needs a permit to operate a food-service establishment. But smoking is banned in food-service establishments.

Realizing that resistance would be futile, Nastri had the machine removed.

The inspectors were presumably acting within the letter of the law, but this is clearly another attempt at harassing smoking businesses and making them as uncomfortable as possible for the people who frequent them.

[Hat tip to Jonathan Blanks.]


So much driving to do

Apropos of yesterday’s post, National Geographic offers up 50 “drives of a lifetime.” I’ve spent time in proximity to many of them but only taken two: California’s Pacific Coast Highway and Italy’s Amalfi Coast (as a passenger). Two of the others are in Oregon, so I have no excuse not to visit those. Oddly, they leave off Crater Lake; the drive along the rim roads offers stunning views from every side.

As a bonus, here’s 10 more from ABC.

[Both links via Craig Newmark.]


Links for 8/28/09

The economics of charity

Inside NYC teachers unions’ rubber rooms

Anti-trust and beer

More on the placebo response

Krugman, the Keynes of Obama; “How can a guy who did such stellar work stumble so badly on basic issues?”

Browned stock solids

Note to Guinness: One of these “remarkable experiences” is slightly less remarkable than the rest

An understandable newspaper error

“Due to many previous bad experiences, “GI”,s are no longer permitted to enter Club Havana”


Hitting the road

I really enjoyed Paul Theroux’s Smithsonian article describing his first trip driving across the United States. Paul had traveled the world but hadn’t seen many of the vast spaces between American cities, remarkable for their varied landscapes and cultures and the freedom from official road blocks. It’s worth reading.

About a year ago I took a round-about route from Arlington, VA to Portland, OR over the course of two months. Though I love Portland, like my job, and am generally happy here, if I could put my stuff in storage and hop in my car again I’d do it in a heartbeat. This time I’d take fewer Interstates,* as Paul did, and get to the deserts of the southwest and the wilds of Montana and the Dakotas. I’d schedule my departures better so that I don’t hit some of the best sights in darkness; I hear Big Sur is amazing, but having driven through it at night I really couldn’t tell you. And I’d try not to go solo for some stretches of the trip, which caused me to pass on some places (like the Grand Canyon) that I’d rather experience with others.

*That said, there are some amazing Interstate drives. The Utah desert rivals the California coast in beauty and the wind farms stretching across Kansas are unimaginably large.

[Via Idea of the Day.]


A simple summer Scotch cocktail


When you think of summer cocktails, Scotch probably isn’t the first spirit to come to mind. But this simple Scotch drink, on the menu as the Ontosoroh at Carlyle, makes a sweet and smoky sip on a summer day:

2 oz Scotch
.75 oz Swedish punsch
.5 oz lemon juice

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. It’s simple to make with just three ingredients but the punsch brings plenty of complexity.

The choice of Scotches matters. I’ve found that Johnnie Walker Black works really well, other brands not so much. Recipes for punsch vary too. Mine is here and is smokier than many. When this all comes together it’s pretty nice.


Links for 8/25/09

A proposed solution to the arrow of time problem

Smokers? Tax them and let them die

Maine restricts alcohol tastings, lest children witness adults drinking

Junk food taxes gain popularity

“It ought to be less embarrassing to have been influenced by Ayn Rand than by Karl Marx.”

How to treat your bartender

When meat becomes dessert

Beck’s intriguing new cover project

VA regulators see cash opportunity in yoga schools

High costs of chronic drunks


Links for 8/24/09

CIA conducted mock executions, threatened prisoner with power drill

In Thailand, a blurred line between tourism and repression

Government to crack down on thrift sales

Shock Doctrine OK for me, but not for thee

High-speed rail and suburban sprawl

Rail service from PDX to Vancouver soon to begin

No hope for reduced sugar tariffs

“He was an exceptional person, therefore he was an eligible candidate for power.”

CT AG joins e-cigarette panic

Brief history of gender-crossing athletes

Star Wars’ design failures


Secret happy hour

Patrick Emerson notes that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is considering getting rid of one its more pointless regulations: the ban on bars and restaurants advertising their happy hour specials. As Patrick notes, the ban prevents customers from getting useful information about prices and availability. It’s an archaic rule that’s long overdue for repeal.

Eventually I’d like to see the OLCC abolished altogether, but for now I’ll be happy with baby steps.

Caleb Brown and Austin Bragg take on the Virginia ABC, one of the few state agencies that make the OLCC look good by comparison.


Fernet-Branca night at Carlyle

Spend enough time with West Coast bartenders and sooner or later you’ll find yourself sipping a powerful, bitter spirit called Fernet-Branca. You probably won’t like it. Then you’ll try it again and you still won’t like it. But something compels you to keep going and you find yourself strangely drawn to the mysterious elixir. And then you’re one of us.

For one night only, Carlyle celebrates the cult favorite amaro with a special menu of cocktails featuring Fernet-Branca. Fernet for dessert? We’ve got that too. (Here’s a hint: Fernet and creme de menthe ice cream. It’s delicious. Seriously.)

Whether you’re a long-time Fernet drinker or trying it for the first time, join us on Monday, August 31 for a night with this memorable spirit. Complete details are available on our Facebook invitation page and I’ll post all the recipes here after the event.


Do smoking bans affect business?

If the business is a casino, the answer is likely yes. A new paper from the St. Louis Fed examines the impact of the Illinois smoking ban on casino revenues and attendance as compared to neighboring states without a ban:

Using monthly data for adjusted gross receipts and total admissions at each of Illinois’ nine casinos, we estimate statistical models to explain the pattern of revenue over the period 1997 through 2008. The models include controls for trends, seasonal patterns, regulatory changes and the general pace of economic activity. After controlling for all these factors, we evaluate the remaining change in revenue that is attributable to the Smoke-Free Illinois Act, identifying the effects of the smoking ban by the timing of its implementation.

Our estimate for the effect on total revenue for all nine casinos is representative of our general findings: We estimate that the smoking ban is associated with a 20 to 22 percent revenue decline, amounting to a total loss in casino revenue of more than $400 million. This estimate implies that casino revenue in Illinois would have been approximately flat in the absence of the smoking ban (+/- 1 percent), rather than experiencing the 21 percent decline shown in the chart.

The presence of riverboat gambling in three states adjacent to Illinois provides an opportunity for comparing this finding with the experience of similar casinos that were not subject to the Illinois smoking ban. Using data for gambling revenue at casinos in Indiana, Iowa and Missouri, we find no significant change associated with the adoption of the Illinois smoking ban. The same calculation that leads to our finding of a 22 percent decline in Illinois revenue yields very small increases in Iowa (2.2) and Missouri (1.9) and literally zero percent change in Indiana. Statistically, these estimates are all consistent with no change in revenue. This observation confirms—at least at the statewide level—that the effect we identify for Illinois is unique. Casinos in each of these states suffered roughly the same downturn in economic activity, but only the Illinois casinos suffered the losses that our model associates with the implementation of the smoking ban.

[Thanks to Tony Tortorici for the heads up!]

Exemptions and employment revisited