Beverly Hills Restaurant Association
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
The Beverly Hills Restaurant Association (BHRA) was a front group set up by the tobacco industry in 1987 to oppose a smokefree measure in California restaurants. It claimed that banning smoking in restaurants would cost them business.
The nominal head of BHRA was Barry Fogel, the owner of Jacopo's restaurant group. He later came to regret his involvement with the organization. In 1994, he stated:
- In 1988, Beverly Hills passed one of the first smokefree ordinances in the nation. It was rescinded 5 months later due to lobbying from the Beverly Hills Restaurant Association. I was president of the Association.
- There was no Beverly Hills Restaurant Association before the smokefree ordinance. We were organized by the tobacco industry. The industry helped pay our legal bills in a suit against Beverly Hills. The industry even flew some of our members by Lear jet to Rancho Mirage, another California city considering smokefree restaurant legislation, to testify before their City Council against a similar smokefree ordinance. Tobacco Institute representatives attended some of our meetings.
- The tobacco industry repeatedly claimed that Beverly Hills restaurants suffered a 30% decline in revenues during the five months that the smokefree ordinance was in effect. Figures from the State Board of Equalization using sales tax data, however, showed a slight increase in restaurant sales.
- I regret my participation with the tobacco industry. In 1991 when I learned that secondhand smoke caused cancer, I made all Jacopo's restaurants 100% smokefree, including bar and outdoor patio areas. Even in this difficult economic climate , our sales have risen.
The BHRA disappeared from view for many years, but resurfaced in 2007 to oppose a law ending smoking in the outdoor areas of restaurants in Beverly Hills. The law went into effect October 1, 2007. In an article on KTLA.com (the web site of a Los Angeles-area television station) BHRA claimed that the new ordinance would hurt Beverly Hills businesses and drive restaurant patrons to neighboring areas of the city where such a law does not exist. The spokesperson for BHRA was not identified in the article. A Google search for "Beverly Hills Restaurant Association" conducted on October 2, 2007 turned up only a phone number, "(310) 276-7443. Reverse lookup of this phone number shows it is a residential number belonging to Rudy Cole of Rudy Cole and Associates, a public affairs organization which has received funding from the tobacco industry (via the PR company Ogilvy and Mather) to oppose proposed smoking ordinances in California.
- Tobacco Institute notes that discuss (on page 23) the Beverly Hills Restaurant Association as a case study and the "dividends" the strategy could pay for the tobacco industry around the country.
Related SourceWatch resources
- Tough new smoking ban takes effect in Beverly Hills, October 1, 2007, www.ktla.com
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