16 March 2006

The End Of The Dive Bar Era In Colorado.

A strict smoking-ban bill was approved by a vote of 19-15 this afternoon in the Senate. The measure bans smoking in bars, restaurants and private clubs, but still allows people to light up in casinos.

The House is expected to easily approve the bill tomorrow, and the governor has already indicated he will sign it. . . . in an earlier version of the bill, the Senate had exempted bars, bingo halls, and racetracks. Senators also tried to create an exemption for private clubs but critics said any bar could easily reorganize as a club to skirt the ban.

From here. (The version passed by the Conference Committee and by the Senate in this most recent vote is found here.)

As the martini bar trend was waning, one of the up and coming thing for newly legal drinkers (or not quite legal drinkers) to do was to frequent "dive bars", the smoke filled, bar bones taverns with bad food, if any, and no microbrews or exotic foreign ales. They wanted to experience Jack Kerouac style squalid "reality," instead of the heavily digested fare they'd grown up with on TV and now found tiresome. They even had their own deftly ironic magazine, Modern Drunkard. Many are still run by the people who founded them in the 1950s and 1960s and have many of the same patrons that they did when they opened. Most neighborhood associations in Denver hate them with a passion, seeing them as the home of rowdy Archie Bunker look alikes in wife beaters, that no longer fit their gentrified images of their neighborhoods. This law will likely put many of those last hold outs out of business, as people inclined to have a beer and a smoke with a few friends do so at home, instead of going out to a venue where they can't smoke. In West Washington Park, places like the Candlelight Inn (on Pearl Street just South of Alameda across from Robinson's Dairy) and the Kentucky Inn (near the intersection of Kentucky and Logan a block or two from the postal sorting facility) are in trouble. Who knows? Neighborhood associations in Denver may even lose their paranoid fear of liquor licenses in a few years (although I doubt it).

Trendier bars, like the Handle Bar and Grill at Alameda and Downing, will thrive, now freed of blame if they tell the handful of smokers who annoyed the rest of their patrons that they have to go outside to smoke. Restaurants can rest easy knowing that they won't lose the patronage of smokers to bars. And, lots of hardened old men and women who frequented the smoke filled bars, bingo halls and VFW halls until now, will likely keep up their old habits, put on their coats and smoke on the sidewalk, like younger office workers everywhere do now. Medium sized offices will also be freed of the difficult issue of making the smoking or no smoking in the office choice for employees. Casinos in Black Hawk and Cripple Creek, meanwhile, as the last haven where one can enjoy both smoking and drinking in public, will likely see their business improve. The buses of metro Denver retirees that deposit their passengers at the casinos on a regular basis now, will soon surge to full with smokers abandoning bingo halls in favor of more solitary slot machines and blackjack tables.

Many people will be mildly happier because of this legislation. Most of the one in five adults or so who still smoke will likely be truly alienated by the legislation, as will bar owners who relied upon their business, although, many bar tenders and waitresses will appreciate having cleaner air to breath on the job. There will probably even be a failed attempt to challenge the law in court before it takes effect in July.

The United States actually has one of the lowest smoking rates in the developed world. Most of Europe, as well as Japan and South Korea, are far more smoker friendly. Without a doubt, hundreds, if not thousands of lives will be saved every year in the state as a result. This restriction follows a recent voter approved massive hike in state tobacco taxes. Bit by bit, Colorado is pretty forcefully urging people to quit the habit, and to not start it. Can a twenty-one year old smoking age be far off?

The future will be cleaner and healthier, but it will have just a little bit less character, sort of like Stapleton or the new VW Bug, both built in the model of older, less regulated pieces of Americana, but compliant with modern standards.


Dex said...

damn. not that i smoke, but i can be counted among the slysters who frequent filthy bars...i will miss coming home stinky; more often than not, that's all i do bring back to the apt...

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The Rocky has these articles noting the health impact (shockingly good) and the mixed economic impact of other bans (good for upscale bars, bad for dives).

Anonymous said...

There is just something about this that just irritates me.

Maybe it's this assumption that that "if we just remove the smoke, drinking at a bar would be safe" which seems stupid.

Maybe it's that lefties cling to this "anti smoking" thing the way conservatives cling to religion: as a way to feel superior to other people..

Maybe it's the lefty "nanny-state" bullshit that irritates me.

Maybe it's that every time I go to a bar, I get some effete urban liberal asking me for a smoke. Of course he's on his third pint and of course he supports this smoking ban. Non-smokers become smokers around the 3rd pint.

Maybe I'm tired of pasty-faced fatasses looking down on me while they gulp down french fries.

I'm a liberal. I smoke maybe 5 cigarettes a day. More on the weekends and when I'm drinking. AND I WANT TO GO TO A FUCKING BAR AND HAVE A FUCKING CIGARETTE!!!

Is that really so hard to comprehend people??

Anonymous said...

Pretty eloquent article there. But I'm not sure dives will really go away. In Boulder, some of them made it, others didn't. The Outback is still there, as is the Dark Horse. Lacky's, the old biker bar in South Boulder, had its patrons move on to Lyons, but not before holding out for a few more years.

Having smoking in bars is clinging to the past. Europe? Italy and Ireland have banned smoking in bars. California, New York, Washington, hec, even Utah. Increasingly, smoking in bars is the icon of a backwater place. Austin banned smoking in bars, but not San Antonio.

Indoor smoking, like car parts on lawns and marrying inside the family, will be something only the most backwater places on earth have. It's a sign that the government is corrupt and detached from the will of the people. It screams, as much as anything can, "backwards."

Anonymous said...

Listen Anonymous - Some people, like me, enjoy smokey dives. Other people, like your mom, enjoy it backwards. I don't smoke or enjoy the stink I bring home from dives like the Ace-Hi in Golden, my favorite. What I do like about these kind of places is the character of them and the characters in them. Probably the best thing about dive bars though is that I know douches like you won't be there.