Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Will Virginia Bars Go Smoke-Free Voluntarily?

You hear the argument from opponents of smoking bans all the time: It should be up to the bars to decide whether they're smoke-free or not. The market will accomodate the needs of customers.

And it turns out the biggest voice against that argument comes from ... the bars themselves.

Even the DC smoking ban that took effect last week hasn't prompted even one bar to change its policy. Showing about as much spine as Smithers shows Mr. Burns, Virginia bars have proudly stood up to say, "We'll keep refusing to change and thumbing our noses at the needs of non-smokers. If you want us to change, you'll have to pass a law forcing us to."

While dozens of Arlington restaurants have gone smoke-free, only one nightspot has gone even partially smoke-free, and that's Clarendon Ballroom.

I emailed eight Arlington bars last week to see if they'd be willing to go smoke-free. Bars are notoriously bad at responding to email, but I did get responses from Eleventh and Whitlow's. The reply from Eleventh was especially encouraging. Both responses are below:

Eleventh: "The basement is smoke free and chances are the main floor will go that route soon."

Whitlows: "Thank you for your kind words about Whitlow’s. Our smoking / non-smoking policy is ever evolving. While we don’t have any immediate plans on changing the policy, we continually review this issue. In light of this trend Whitlow’s will continue to meet the demands of our patrons. Thank you, Jonathan Williams, General Manager."
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