Smoking ban not a big deal in most neighborhood joints

The first full weekend of the new smoking ban in bars has passed, and it hasn't become the end of Western Civilization as smokers know it, according to a random sampling of Magnolia and Queen Anne drinking establishments.

But judging from a huge number of cigarette butts littering the streets and sidewalks, hardly anyone seems to be obeying the 25-foot rule, a provision in the law described as everything from ridiculous to "bull(poop)" by smokers and nonsmokers alike.

Down at the Mecca bar in Lower Queen Anne, a place that was one of the smokiest joints in town, many regulars were steamed and some were in open defiance of the law against smoking in or near bars.

A Mecca regular who called himself William Dawes was critical of the 25-foot rule. "That might work out in the sticks, but it won't work in the city," he said.

Seattle bars usually don't have parking lots where smokers can go, Dawes noted. "Furthermore, it puts a lot of people out on the streets who have been drinking," he added.

David Beard, a former staffer at the Mecca, said the 25-foot rule has to go. "That's why it's as bad as it is," he said of the law. "There's no tolerance. That's not cool, man."

Mike Jones, a Mecca bartender, also slammed the 25-foot rule. "If you're outside, you're outside," he said. Jones suggested the state could make money by selling bars smoking licenses.

"I don't much care," said Michael Hildebrand of the new law. A Mecca regular and an ex-smoker, he noted that most people don't smoke these days.

"Some bars and some people are going to make a big deal of (the ban). In the long run, it's not going to make a difference because people are still going to go to bars," Hildebrand added.

The ban certainly didn't seem to make much difference at the Village Pub in Magnolia Village last weekend, according to bartender Allison Hasenkamp.

"We lost people who normally smoke, but we got a lot of new people who don't smoke," she said. Hasenkamp predicted the old regulars who smoke will be back soon. "Where are they going to go?" she pointed out.

Owner Matt Baker, a non-smoker, said he was pleased with the new law. "I don't have to take a shower when I go home," he said of not having to wash off the smell of cigarette smoke.

Comment cards the Village Pub hands out to customers were overwhelmingly in favor of the smoking ban, Baker added.

He called the 25-foot rule ridiculous, but the lack of smoking inside will give Baker a chance to do some redecorating. "That's why the walls are (painted) yellow here," he said.

Mike Lindeman, a bartender at the Paragon on Upper Queen Anne Hill, said there was no drop in business at that bar, which has prohibited smoking before 10 p.m. for quite some time.

He said he didn't think there would be a drop anyway; now it's a level playing field out there because the only bars that allow smoking are tribal casinos: "In two weeks, no one will give a (damn)," Lindeman said.

Henry Garnes, a bartender at Mulleady's Irish Pub in Magnolia, said there was also no drop-off in business at that bar. "In fact, it's actually increased."

Mulleady's had been non-smoking on the first floor but allowed smoking on the second floor. "The smokers still hang out upstairs, even though they can't smoke anymore," he said.

But the Mulleady's smokers stood outside 25 feet from the door to have a cigarette last weekend, Garnes said. However, asked how cigarette butts ended up at the curb, which is less than 25 feet from the door, he professed ignorance: "I don't know how they got there."

Larry Hill, a bartender at the Boxcar Alehouse on 20th Avenue West in Magnolia, said the usual number of customers showed up at the bar last weekend.

The Boxcar started out as a nonsmoking venue when it first opened, but that changed about a year ago when smoking was allowed after 4 p.m. "We were losing too much business," Hill explained.

A nonsmoker, Hill welcomes the change back to the way things used to be at the bar. "I can wear the same jacket the next day," he said. "It's nice."

By contrast, the Hilltop Alehouse a couple doors down from the Paragon started out smoke-free, and it stayed that way, noted bartender Lisa Rulland. She doesn't think the smoking ban is such a big deal.

"Pretty much everybody up here is nonsmoking," she said of restaurants on Upper Queen Anne Hill. "So I don't think it's going to matter."

But Rulland noted the new law is a little vague about enforcing the ban. "Should we decide to call somebody (about a rogue smoker), we don't even know who to call," she said.

Peter Philips, a regular at the Hilltop, described the 25-foot rule as "ludicrous," but he had an interesting take on the entire law. "I voted against it," he said. The reason: Philips said he doesn't like government telling private businesses what to do or what not to do.

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at 461-1309.[[In-content Ad]]