Two years ago, on July 1st 2008, the smoking ban was introduced in Holland.
Some 1200 pub owners joined forces, put their money together and challenged the ban through lawsuits. They won several cases, especially those in appeal. But they also lost one at the highest appeal level, where the case of two cafés was sent back to a lower court. That latter one was lost, but Café "De Kachel" and Café Victoria will go to the highest court again to fight against this ruling, using different arguments as in the first high court appeal. This case is expected to run within 6 months.
Parallel to this criminal law procedure, Café De Kachel is fighting the ban by administrative law too, which will lead to the administrative high court that has ruled in our favour a couple of times before. The date for this lawsuit is also not known yet.
So the legal procedures are still going on.
But these procedures have influenced politics as well. After the June elections a new government is being formed and the latest developments show that this formation of a new government may well lead to a coalition of parties in which the anti-ban parties will have a majority.
Not willing to wait for the outcome of this complex formation process, the Liberal party (VVD) has now announced an initiative in parliament to exempt the small bar owners without staff from the ban. The proposal will be presented for voting in the parliament after the parliamentary recess which will end on September 6.
It looks like a majority of the current parties will vote in favour of this proposal. So we keep our fingers crossed!
Meanwhile, most of the bars (some 80% - with or without staff) keep sticking their middle finger up and allow smoking. Even the latest defeat in court did not change that. I hear little news about enforcement of the ban. With their legal procedures, the joint bar owners have created a no man's land where even the law enforcers don't know what they have to do. The smoking ban has become a real PITA for the outgoing government and they want to get rid of this hot potatoe ASAP. And that will go the Dutch way: by compromise (the 'polder model').
For now, chaos rules!