Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is predictably pushing once again for a comprehensive statewide smoking ban. Not so predictably, he’s teamed up with the owners of Clarendon’s Liberty Tavern to launch his campaign:
This year, he believes momentum is on his side. At a news conference Tuesday at a Clarendon tavern, Kaine said the public is increasingly supportive of such bans…
Stephen Fedorchak, owner of The Liberty Tavern, the restaurant where Kaine held his news conference, said he has been in the business long enough to know smoking was once entrenched in bars and restaurants. But those days have passed, he said.
He said he does not regret the decision to ban smoking in his restaurant and said these days “smokers are somewhat used to going out in a … fresh-air environment” and no longer assume they will be allowed to light up.
I was something of a regular at Liberty when it opened in 2007 and nearly became an employee (they offered me a job, but I wasn’t comfortable with the time commitment). It was an unofficial home for many libertarian-minded people in the area and was among the handful of bars I revisited when back in town last month. That, however, was my last beer there. I sent them the following letter this afternoon:
I was disappointed to hear today that Liberty Tavern is teaming up with Governor Kaine to push for a statewide smoking ban. I’m happy that you’ve chosen to make your business smokefree and have found customers who welcome the clean air. You’ve set an admirable example for other Virginia businesses. So please, leave them free to try it on their own. It’s a sad irony that a place called the “Liberty Tavern” is now attempting to force its policy onto every other bar and restaurant in the state.
Though I’ve enjoyed the food and drink at your bar in the past, I value my freedom of choice even more. From now on when I’m in Virginia I’ll be exercising mine at Arlington’s many other worthwhile establishments.
Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a minute to let them know how you feel.
For an alternative bar, try out EatBar and Tallula if you haven’t already been. Liberty Tavern’s only real advantage over this nearby competitor is proximity to the Metro. EatBar’s food is the equal or better of anything at Liberty, the beer selection is bigger and better, the wine list is far larger, and the crowd features fewer lame young professionals. Even if you don’t like the fact that they allow smoking in the small back room, you can appreciate that they don’t think every other restaurant in Virginia should be forced to do the same.
One other note on the proposed ban: Kaine is always careful to refer to this as a ban on smoking in “restaurants.” Technically, that’s true. That’s because there is no such thing as a bar in Virginia. According to ABC regulations, all businesses that serve on-premise alcohol are required to sell significant amounts of food. Casual listeners are likely to interpret the proposal as a supposedly reasonable restriction on restaurants that leaves bars free to set their own policies. It’s hard to view his word choice as anything but intentionally misleading. Since what he’s really pushing is a smoking ban in all businesses, he should say so directly.
Don’t need no stinkin’ bans!