Cigar Revolt: Breaking the Rules at CPAC

It’s not yet illegal to smoke in Washington, D.C., bars and restaurants — that comes Jan. 1, 2007 — but it is apparently against the rules at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Northwest Washington, home to the 33rd annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

Last night at the hotel bar, tensions escalated among hotel staff and patrons when some conference attendees decided to light up cigars at the Marquee Bar and Lounge in celebration of CPAC.

Initially, a waiter asked the customers to put out their smokes, and when they refused, a manager was sent to the scene. But even that didn’t stop the tobacco-loving conservatives. It took a visit from hotel security to straighten things out. Our very own publisher, Stephen O’Connor, got involved at this point and managed to work out a deal with security.

Turns out the security guard was a Republican who once worked for the late Lee Atwater, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. He told the smokers they could finish their cigars.

So who were these rule-breakers?

Two points about this mini-drama:

  1. Why did the organizers of CPAC pick a hotel that won’t allow smoking? After all, aren’t conservatives the ones who are supposed to be sticking up for individual rights?
  2. Why would a bar that sells cigars and provides matches — as the Marquee Bar and Lounge does — prevent customers from smoking?