Dutch bar owners won a new victory in their fight against a smoking ban on their premises when an appeal court cleared two of them of breaking the law and quashed a 1,200 euro fine.
"The law contains no formal obligation for landlords of cafes, restaurants and hotels without staff to implement a smoking ban," the appeal court at Leeuwarden in the northern Netherlands said in a statement.
It overturned the verdict handed down in a lower court against the pair from Groningen who became the first to be prosecuted following the introduction of the nationwide ban a year ago.
"The court finds that the (ban) is partly non-binding, as it lacks legal grounding" regarding establishments with no staff, said a court statement.
The ban on smoking in the hotel, restaurant and catering industry had sought to protect staff from the dangers of second-hand smoke inhalation.
Several thousand small bars and cafes in the Netherlands united late last year to defy the smoking ban and create a joint legal defence fund, arguing they lacked the floor space and money to erect separate smoking-only areas.
A recent Dutch health ministry study found that 62 percent of Dutch cafes saw a drop in business in October and November 2008, compared with a year earlier, on account of the smoking ban.