Liberty Tavern not so keen on liberty

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 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.

Update 1/7/09: Thanks to Radley Balko, former bartender and former smoker Jonathan Blanks, and Suetonius at Freedom and Shit for spreading the word. Good job!

Update 1/8/09: And now David Boaz at the Cato blog, Andrew Roth at the Club for Growth, and Caleb Brown at Catallaxy.

Update 1/9/09: Fr33 Agents threw in with the boycott, leading to coverage this morning at Washington City Paper’s blog.

Don’t need no stinkin’ bans!


11 thoughts on “Liberty Tavern not so keen on liberty”

  1. I was never sure why the owners of the Liberty Tavern decided upon that name. Prior to it opening I was excited to chill at a nearby watering hole that was decked-out in liberty-ish themes. I thought perhaps I’d see a mural of Washington crossing the DE River. But, upon my first visit I immediately saw it was just another over-priced trendy bar/restaurant.

    A better place (can’t believe you didn’t recommend it Jacob!) is Jay’s Saloon, just a couple blocks south. It’s so chill and old-school it doesn’t even have a website, but a quick Google search shows that it has much support. From smokers and non-smokers alike.

  2. Jay’s is definitely worth a visit, though not really a substitute for people who liked Liberty. But hey, all recommendations for alternative watering holes welcome!

  3. Well said as always, Jacob.

    I was truly sorry to read this, especially since–despite its plethora of hipster tools–I too have enjoyed Liberty Tavern in the past. I sent them an email of my own this morning explaining why they won’t be seeing me again.

  4. This is very disappointing.

    While working out of the Ron Paul campaign’s national HQ just a few blocks from Liberty [sic] Tavern, the place was (fittingly we thought) one of our favorite places to grab a drink after a long day in the office or on the campaign trail.

    If we had known the owner was up to crap like this I’m sure we’d of taken our business elsewhere.

    I always liked O’Sullivans just around the corner from LT.

  5. This article is old now, but this ass hole got his way, and forced his crap on the rest of the state, but since Arlington is full of liberals incapable of thinking on their own, it’s not hurting business. They just do as their told, thinking government knows what’s best for them.

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