Roosevelt Lights Up Bavaria

Bar owners in Bavaria are getting around the German state government’s desire to join the Europe-wide trend of banishing smokers to the sidewalks by setting up members-only smoking clubs.

Establishments such as the Roosevelt Classic Smoking Bar in Munich, named after U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt because he did away with his country’s alcohol prohibition, are exempt from the new regulations as long as they can demonstrate that they’re private members’ clubs. There’s no screening process and membership is free.

The national government has banned smoking nationwide in government buildings but has left the jurisdiction of bars, restaurants and other public places to the nation’s 16 states.

Most states have imposed measures to restrict smoking. But in Bavaria, where the local economy is massively boosted by foreigners visiting the annual Oktoberfest, lawmakers also struck a deal exempting beer tents from the non-smoking legislation.

Since Bavaria, which is in the southeast and is the largest of the German states, adopted its smoking ban in January, more than 50 establishments have declared themselves private clubs, requiring patrons to sign up for membership in exchange for the right to light up.

The state has nearly 12.5 million inhabitants and, apart from Munich bars including The Roosevelt, which now has a membership of more than 4,000, smokers-only clubs are also on the increase in Nuremberg, Augsburg, Würzburg, Regensburg, Ingolstadt, Fürth and Erlangen.