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State clarifies rule on patio and open-air patio smoking at restaurants

LANSING, MI (WTVB) - The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has clarified and loosened a rule that determines whether restaurants can allow customers to smoke on rooftops or open-air patios.  The change, announced yesterday, bans smoking only when food or beverages are being "prepared, served or provided" and now allows business owners to stop restaurant operations on patios and rooftops at certain hours in order to allow customers to smoke there. According to MDARD, the change would allow a bar, with a liquor license, to offer alcohol outside in a particular area, to have customers smoking outside while they also had their drinks. But still, the selling of the drinks couldn't take place in the area at the same time. The department had received calls from people who wanted more information on what the previous rule meant.

The Michigan Restaurant Association Monday said that it appreciated the clarification. But the MRA didn't give the move a ringing endorsement, claiming that some restaurants with outdoor areas may have an advantage. Also, the Association said the new interpretation would be a moot point for many eateries, contending they won't want to stop serving customers on outdoor patios or rooftops -- and forego revenue that could be generated there -- in order to allow smoking.