Bars in Minnesota have found a dramatic way to get around the US state's recently introduced smoking ban.
The law grants an exception from the ban to performers in theatrical productions. So the bars have become theatres, and their customers, actors.
Now some bars print bills listing the "cast" of bartenders, and ashtrays become "props". Drinkers don costumes and attempt strange accents.
At the Rock, a heavy-metal bar in Maplewood, owner Brian Bauman explained why his clientele were doing little more than sitting around, smoking and drinking to a soundtrack of deafening music.
"They're playing themselves before 1 October - you know, before there was a smoking ban," he said, according to the Associated Press.
"We call the production, Before the Ban!"
Other bars have taken to the scheme with greater gusto, with customers dressing up in costume, the entrance labelled "stage door" and promising productions such as the Tobacco Monologues.
Up to 100 bars across the state are relying on the legal loophole to allow smokers to continue lighting up.
Now, I like this idea, if only because it cocks a snook at the authorities in the most flamboyant way possible.
Obviously, it wouldn't work in Scotland as the joyless Jocks, no doubt inspired by our Puritanical prime minister (bastard that he is), have banned smoking indoors at all, whether it be a theatre or TV studio (incidentally, does anyone know if that has had any effect on the film and television industry up there?).
I am not actually sure what the laws are in England and Wales, but I assume—from watching Ashes To Ashes if nothing else—that there is some exemption from the smoking ban on the grounds of "artistic licence"?
Anyway, needless to say, the state authorities in Minnesota are unable to tolerate this flouting of their beareaucratic decree.
But the state's health department says they are indeed breaking the law, and has threatened to hit them with fines of up to $10,000 (£5,000).
"The law was enacted to protect Minnesotans from the serious health effects of second-hand smoke," said Sanne Magnan, the Minnesota health commissioner.
OK. Now, would you please produce the evidence for the "serious health effects of second-hand smoke" because there is, as far as I am aware, no report that shows a statistically significant increased health risk from breathing of second hand smoke.
Many of you may argue that it is disgusting and your clothes smell, etc. but that is an aesthetic argument. I could equally argue that we should ban ugly people and boring people from bars because they reduce my drinking pleasure. Where is the evidence of ill health caused by second hand smoke?
She said the "theatrics" would have to end.
But bar owners fear their takings will fall once the ban is reimposed, while others will miss the antics.
"It's turned into the most fun thing I can imagine," said Lisa Anderson, owner of a bar in Hall City.
Ah, well, we can't have people having fun, you know; that's just not on. Or, rather, you can have fun, but it must be state-sanctioned fun. An hour of state-supervised aerobics every day, for instance, or a state-organised fun run (that's like running but with added fun fun fun!)...