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EXTRA - Theatre Night 2.0

18th April 2009
Attorney Mark Benjamin has argued his appeal to the conviction of Tom “Tank” Marinaro for permitting smoking in his Minnesota bar.
Mister Marinaro was exploiting the smoking ban exemption for theatrical performances in the Minnesota law. A court found him guilty nonetheless, essentially on the grounds that the theatrical performance in his bar did not qualify for the exemption. Numerous Minnesota bar owners have similarly sought to exploit the theatrical exemption in a movement which has become generally known as “Theatre Night.” A ruling on Marinaro’s appeal is expected within ninety days. Mark Benjamin vows to fight to the state Supreme Court if necessary, and further vows that the Theatre Night movement will continue, possibly including refinement of the practice to exclude the argument that the barroom performances do not meet a standard of qualification as theatrical performances. If the legitimacy of Theatre Night is not recognized, he says, the courts will then have to deal with Theatre Night version 2.0.  

WDIO-TV has reported on the appeal at its website (stored) together with a video report. Mister Benjamin tells us: "Maybe it sounds weird, but if we lose, we win." Text of his latest press release follows here:
Criminal Defense, P.A.
237 Second Avenue SW, Suite 111
Cambridge, MN 55008
763-691-0900 (office)
763-670-9664 (mobile)

Press Release

Cambridge Attorney Mark W. Benjamin appeared before the MN Court of Appeals yesterday on behalf of his client Tom Marinaro.

Last May, Mr. Marinaro was found guilty of allowing his customer-actors to smoke in his bar during a performance of his improvisational play "The Gunsmoke Monologues". The district court ruled that his play did not fit within the "theatrical productions" exception to Minnesota's state-wide smoking ban. Why? Because his customer-actors did not wear costumes, read from scripts or restrict their performances to a stage.

These standards do not exist in the language of the statute and bar owners have been uncertain just what would satisfy the Minnesota Department of Health. No bars have hosted Theater Night since last spring, worried that they might inadvertently run afoul of the law.

That could all change if the Court of Appeals affirms the district court. For the first time, bar owners would have legal authority to employ those standards in hosting future Theater Nights. Simply put, all performances would be restricted to a stage and all customer-actors would wear costumes and read from scripts. Oh yes, and they would smoke too.

Strangely enough, a loss for Mr. Marinaro would be a victory for Minnesota's small bar owners. Theater Night 2.0 would be born and better than ever.

Mr. Benjamin emphasized that Mr. Marinaro and other small bar owners mean no disrespect to law enforcement or the courts.  They simply want the same thing the Guthrie Theater wants. They want to make money — legally.

The Court of Appeals has up to 90 days to reach a decision.

Our show goes on.

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