Six years after New York City enacted a smoking ban inside bars, restaurants and clubs, patrons of upscale nightclubs continue to light up, according to a Times investigation. Cigarettes are commonplace at venues like Goldbar, Avenue, and Griffin, the paper reports. "Everyone looks the other way," said Guest of a Guest writer Billy Gray, 25. "It's more of an illicit thrill now," he said. "Like when you were a teenager and snuck a beer in your parents' basement."

When the anti-smoking legislation was up for debate, many club owners fought against it. Today, insiders allege that club management often ignores — or even encourages — smoking inside venues. According to 22-year-old student Pat Shea, staff at Avenue told him to smoke wherever he wanted: "I asked the busboy where to smoke and he said, 'Oh, people just light up in here,'" he said. "I saw other people do it and then I decided, Why not?" Owners of clubs including Tenjune and Avenue denied that they allow smokers to light up indoors.

For its part, the city says it's trying to crack down on smoking inside venues. Citations for smoking went up 35 percent this summer, to 306 from 227 during the same period in 2007, according to recent statistics. And Health Department Associate Commissioner Elliott Marcus — who described his agency's covert investigations at Lower East Side, Meatpacking District and Astoria clubs as a "cat-and-mouse game" — said that velvet ropes won't keep his inspectors away: "It's these high-end places for people who think that the rules don't apply to them," he said. "We're going to pursue them and demonstrate that the rules do apply to everyone."