On Feb. 1, Ryleigh's Oyster is throwing a cigar social that at first seems in blatant violation of the Maryland indoor smoking ban.
The promotional ad features a slender stogie atop a glass of whiskey and promises giveaways of hand-rolled cigars from Cross Street Tobacco.
But don't expect to smoke inside the Federal Hill bar, says owner Brian McComas. The event is just that - promotion for the cigar shop and for Jameson whiskey. It's part of the bar's spirits tasting series.
"They hope customers will walk up to the store after our event," McComas says, referring to Cross Street.
Even those bars that received waivers from the ban can't host smokers anymore - the waivers expired last year.
If there is smoking inside, Ryleigh's could face a stiff penalty of at least $500 from a city sanitation inspector.
Smoking at bars and restaurants has been illegal in Baltimore since 2007. Later that year, Governor Martin O'Malley signed a statewide ban, one of the country's most restrictive, making Maryland, at the time, one about 20 states to also enforce anti-smoking laws. Both bans came into effect in 2008.
Since then, smoking bans have come to more and more outdoor venues as well, most recently the Baltimore Farmers' Market.
After the statewide ban, some businesses were allowed to ask the state for financial hardship waivers if their business decreased 15 percent from the year before. About 11 places were granted the exemption, including Baltimore's Ropewalk Tavern and The Havana Club; Max's cigar shop never required a license. (The full list is below)
But those waivers expired last January 31, making it illegal to smoke indoors anywhere in the state except tobacco shops, like Cross Street.
Ryleigh's cigar social isn't in violation of the ban because the owners won't be allowing smoking indoors.
Instead, the event is mainly a whiskey tasting that also features a gift bag with some cigar paraphernalia, some hors d'oeuvres, and a Q&A with a cigar shop pro. All the cigar socializing would have to be done outdoors, or at the tobacco shop.
Places where it was legal to smoke indoors until 2011, according to Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:
The Wilderness Tavern
Shooters Bar & Grill
VFW Post 1800
VFW Post 8810
Improved Order of Red Men of Maryland, 19 Chippewa Tribe