NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 2, 2010

New York City is trying to shut down the M2 Ultralounge, a popular nightclub on West 28th Street in Manhattan, because it allegedly tolerates drug use.  The drug in question: tobacco. 

  • If the New York State Department of Health succeeds in revoking the club's operating license, the New York Times reports, it would be the first time the city had closed a business solely for flouting a ban on smoking.
  • The Times notes that the case against the M2 was built by undercover agents who venture into reputed "smoke-easies" and work into the wee hours, posing as patrons and hunting for tolerance of smoking by clubs' employees.  

City officials have also moved to take several other clubs before the court, seeking to revoke their food and beverage licenses.  It has been an open secret for years among the late-night set that there is a network of so-called smoke-easies throughout the city, from little neighborhood dives to glossy, exclusive hot spots that let patrons smoke illegally. 

It's a tough job, and not everyone can do it, says Reason Magazine. 

"Some of the clubs where smoking is going on tend to be very, very cool clubs," says Thomas Merrill, the health department's general counsel, "and a bunch of guys showing up in jackets tend to be very, very uncool."  The department therefore recruited younger, hipper spies to narc on smoker-friendly venues, says Reason. 

Source: Jacob Sullum, "Very, very oncool: crackdown on smoke-easies," Reason Magazine, July 2010. 

For text:,+very+oncool%3A+crackdown+on+smoke-easies.-a0227945168 

For N.Y. Times text: 


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