Updated: Oct. 12,3:09 p.m.
After 21 years, September 30 was the last day to smoke cigarettes and cigars inside of Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub.
The bar officially banned smoking inside after two decades in business. Durty Nelly’s reminded patrons with a cartoon on its Facebook page that Wednesday was the last day smoking would be allowed, captioned, “The beginning of a new era.”
The authentic Irish pub has been serving drinks like Guinness and Jameson at its West University Avenue location and letting patrons smoke bar-side since it opened in 1994. A bar for patrons 21 and up, the main draw for customers is the live Irish folk music.
Durty Nelly’s owner Shauna Dixon thinks the change from smoking to non-smoking will be good for customers.
“I just felt in my heart it was time to make this change,” she said. “The whole goal is for a healthier future.”
Dixon said she’s been trying to make Durty Nelly’s a smoke-free environment for a long time but never received the support from staff and customers. Now, she says, “My staff are all completely on board. It’s a sign of the times.”
A goal for the bar is to eventually create a small outdoor patio for the few patrons that have expressed opposition to the new policy, where they will be able to smoke freely.
Victoria Hunter, Chair of Tobacco Free Alachua’s Community Partnership, said Durty Nelly’s decision is something to be excited about.
“Durty Nelly’s is adding to a long list of smoke-free environments. It’s good for Gainesville,” Hunter said.
She and the Tobacco Free Alachua Community Partnership have been campaigning for bars and nightclubs to voluntarily go smoke-free for a few years now.
Because bars like Durty Nelly’s don’t make the majority of their income from food sales, they are not required by law to follow the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act that prohibits smoking inside establishments.
Hunter said 10.9 percent of employment in Gainesville falls within the leisure and hospitality industry, which includes the local nightclub and bar industry.
She also cited previous studies that show only 2.5 percent of University of Florida students smoke daily, from a Healthy Gators survey done in 2010, and that many patrons of the bar scene in town are students.
“Everyone we’ve talked to said it has in no way negatively impacted their business,” Hunter said of area bar owners choosing to go smoke-free, and included that some have even seen a positive impact by preventing patron and employee exposure to second-hand smoke.
Other bars in Gainesville that voluntarily made the move to be smoke-free include Tall Paul’s, The Atlantic and Palomino Pool Room.
Dixon said she hopes her business move will benefit her customers’ health, but does not yet know what the impact will be.
“If we can instigate that trigger in somebody’s mind to quit, it will be worth it,” she said.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story reported bars do not have to follow the Florida Clear Air Act, which prohibits smoking inside certain establishments. The correct law is the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act.