Gainesville bars are abandoning ashtrays for cleaner air.
Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub in downtown Gainesville joined several formerly smoke-friendly local bars and nightclubs Oct. 1 by voluntarily banning smoking indoors. Other bars and nightclubs that have also ended indoor smoking include Gator City, Grog House, and The Atlantic.
According to the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, 10 Gainesville businesses still allow indoor smoking.
Victoria Hunter, chair of Tobacco Free Alachua’s Community Partnership, said she believes the bar’s move to ban indoor smoking marks a trend toward a shifting culture in Gainesville.
“I definitely think there is momentum building toward having more smoke-free options for bar patrons in Gainesville,” Hunter said. “I think most people in Alachua County and most students at the University of Florida are non-smokers, and they are interested in being in an environment that’s smoke-free.”
Hunter said that bars in Florida must choose to end indoor smoking voluntarily because the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act doesn’t prohibit smoking in bars if those businesses earn less than 10 percent of their revenue from selling food. Along with cultural preferences against tobacco consumption among younger generations, she believes the rise in popularity of craft beers may be a factor encouraging bars to end indoor smoking.
“Tobacco smoke can interfere with the experience of a craft beer flavor,” she said. “A lot of it is the smell of the beer as well as the taste. Tobacco smoke can actually interfere with that.”
Ultimately for Shauna Dixon, co-owner of Durty Nelly’s, the decision simply felt like the right choice to make for the Irish pub. She recognized that in 2004, Ireland was the first nation in the world to completely ban smoking in indoor public spaces, which includes restaurants and bars.
“Here we are doing it so many years later in Gainesville’s little piece of Ireland,” Dixon said.
Many Durty Nelly’s patrons are regular tobacco consumers, and Dixon acknowledges that the move was risky. Dixon said she’s heard both positive and negative feedback and hopes her decision will benefit her staff and customers by encouraging them to kick the habit.
Todd Duff, a Durty Nelly’s regular, said the cigarette smoke at the pub always bothered him. He believes the decision will attract more people who were formerly appalled by the smoke.
“Most people don’t have indoor smoking anymore,” Duff said. “I don’t think it should be a problem.”
Shannon Boeppler, a Lillian’s Music Store regular who smokes tobacco, said she thinks Durty Nelly’s will continue to attract patrons despite its move, even though the bar may lose customers initially.
Lillian’s Music Store allows smoking indoors.
“I think some of their regulars that are big smokers, and definitely smoke when they drink, aren’t going to go there as much,” Boeppler said.
Kevin Morrill, manager and bartender at Lillian’s Music Store, thinks Lillian’s will attract Durty Nelly’s regulars who prefer to visit a bar that allows indoor smoking.
“I think it’s probably going to hurt their business,” Morrill said. “Some of the places that have done it recently within the past year or two have lost a lot of business at first, and then people started coming back afterwards.”
For A.J. Fuller, a bartender at Gator City and non-smoker, working in a smoke-free environment is a nice change. He said that while Gator City ultimately chose to end indoor smoking on Jan. 1, because its food sales increased, its management had already considered making the change beforehand.
Fuller said most of Gator City’s patrons reacted positively to the decision.
“I do believe it is going to be a trend in Gainesville, especially with the very educated base you have in Gainesville,” Fuller said. “Smoking is a dying art. There’s not as many people smoking as there used to be 10 to 20 years ago.”