Bars prepare for new smoking ban law

By Will York

Some of Nashville's GLBT bars and clubs haven't decided if they will ban smoking when a statewide indoor smoking ban becomes effective Oct. 1, but either decision won't hurt business, owners say.

Gov. Phil Bredesen signed a bill this summer that bans most indoor smoking - including at restaurants - but gives an exception for bars and clubs that only allow customers who are at least 21 years old.

Play Dance Bar, which admits 18-year-old customers, doesn't have a choice but to ban smoking and is building an outdoor patio to accommodate smokers, co-owner Todd Roman said.

"It will be covered and will have heat, so even in the winter we're going to make sure it's really comfortable," Roman said. "We're really excited about it."

Roman said banning smoking indoors will help employees' health and could boost business.

"I know a number of my own friends who don't go out (to clubs) frequently because they hate smelling like smoke," Roman said. "I actually think business will increase. I think there are a large number of people being health-conscious these days who are looking for nonsmoking venues."

Tribe, which only admits customers at least 21 years old and is exempt from the ban under the law, hasn't decided whether to become entirely nonsmoking, said Bud East, the bar's senior manager.

Parts of Tribe are already nonsmoking, but East said he is considering using the statewide ban as an opportunity to ban smoking altogether.

"We're leaning more to the nonsmoking establishment but making provisions for the smokers," East said. "I'm in favor of going nonsmoking. Being in the industry the last 15 years, I question my own health because of all the secondhand smoke."

He said the bar will conduct a survey in September to gauge customers' preferences, and the bar will construct a heated, covered patio if patrons favor going nonsmoking.

Will Pulley, co-owner of Blue Gene's and Blu, which both allow customers 18 and up, said the bars will ban smoking rather than change their age restrictions.

"I think we should provide a place for the young folks to go and have fun," Pulley said. "What really bothers me is why it (the ban) affects businesses that have patrons under 21. People 18 can buy cigarettes. You can buy them, but not go in."

He said banning smoking may deter some people from going to clubs but will attract others who dislike cigarette smoke.

Lucky's Garage spokesman Michael Fluck said the 21-and-up bar is consulting its attorney and is still unsure about whether it will ban smoking.

"There are some things in the legislation that are quite ambiguous," Fluck said. "There's still a lot of uncertainty from our standpoint."

Fluck said the bar should be mindful of smokers and nonsmokers, regardless of its decision, which he expects by mid-September.

"If we decided to remain a smoking bar, we think it's important to manage the smoke levels," he said. "If we decide to go smoke-free, we think it's important to have friendly facilities available for people who smoke."

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