They said Arlington’s bars would never voluntarily go smoke-free … then Liberty Tavern did and places like Eleventh, Union Jacks, and Clarendon Grill soon followed.
They said sports bars would never go smoke-free … then Summers created a separate smoke-free bar, followed by Four Courts and Crystal City Sports Pub, and Thirsty Bernie’s opened entirely smoke-free.
Now Arlington’s best diner, Bob & Edith’s at Columbia Pike & S. Wayne St., is going 100% smoke-free.
Arlington makes an interesting test case. It’s one of the wealthiest, most liberal cities in the country, and residents would surely approve a smoking ban if they were allowed to. Fortunately they’re restrained by Virginia law that forbids local anti-smoking ordinances to exceed the state’s own rules. Every year a statewide ban is introduced in the senate and immediately shot down by the tobacco-friendly house.
The fact that popular bars and established restaurants are voluntarily choosing to restrict smoking shows that ban opponents have been right all along: given demand for smokefree environments, profit-seeking business owners will eventually provide them, if not as immediately as a legislative ban would. And as someone who generally prefers bars with clean air, I think that’s fantastic — as long as dive bars like Jay’s or the backroom cigar lounge at EatBar remain free to set their own policies too.
The same has been true in Portland, another city one might have expected to institute a smoking ban long ago. Even before the statewide ban went into effect last week I noticed there were far more smokefree bars here than in other places I’ve lived. I checked the directory at SmokeFreeOregon.com and the site listed more than 400 establishments within the city limits. That was hardly a lack of choice for non-smokers.
At best, one could make the case for nudging businesses to go smokefree with one-time tax breaks to speed up adoption of the policy. Otherwise, leave people free to associate on their own terms and they’ll eventually figure out ways to accommodate each other. There’s no need for coercion.