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Where Smokers Seek Solace in Rhode Island

  • Aug 10, 2015 | Gail Cole

 Be sure your smoking bar is really a smoking bar.

It’s against the law to smoke in enclosed public places in Rhode Island, as it is in most every other state. Smokers can’t light up in aquariums, libraries, lobbies, museums, retail stores, shopping malls, and just about any other place you can name. The cleaner air is particularly noticeable—and appreciated by nonsmokers—in restaurants and bars.

Yet there is a place where smokers can go to enjoy tobacco products unmolested. It is called the “Smoking bar.”

A “smoking bar” is defined under Rhode Island law as “an establishment whose business is primarily devoted to the serving of tobacco products for consumption on the premises….” But there’s more to it than that. A business can’t simply open its doors and say, “Hey, smokers, you’re safe in here!”

An Important Notice recently posted on the Rhode Island Division of Taxation website highlights new registration and reporting requirements for smoking bars. These took effective July 1, 2015, and are now part of the definition of smoking bar (See R.I.G.L. § 23‐20.10‐2(15)(a)).

To be considered a smoking bar:

  • Annual tobacco sales revenue must be greater than 50% of the total revenue.
  • Alcohol and food sales must be “only incidental to the consumption of such tobacco products.”
  • Public access must only be from the street.
  • There must be a proper ventilation system.

It’s not enough to say more tobacco is sold than food or drink. Beginning July 1, smoking bars must “annually demonstrate that revenue generated from the serving of tobacco products is greater than the total combined revenue generated by the serving of beverages and food.”

According to the Division of Taxation, “if your Smoking Bar fails to comply with filing its Quarterly Return and Report of Revenues, its sales tax permit, cigarette dealer’s license, and your operator’s license and/or vehicle registration may be blocked, suspended, or terminated….” Additional details are available here.

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Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.