The big news here in San Francisco is the no smoking ban that went into effect for bars as of New Years. Everybody's been very curious as to how it would work out, especially since most of the bartenders smoke.
Some bars have been enforcing it fairly strictly without much problem. Customers actually interact with each other more while standing outside for a smoke than they do inside. Other bars are pretty much ignoring it. ("It's my duty to inform you that it's illegal for you to smoke in here. But if you're going to smoke, please use this beer bottle as an ashtray.")
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Specs had been saying for weeks that he would just defy the law, so I was quite surprised when I went in January 2 and saw no one smoking and the bartenders diligently telling people to put their cigarettes out or step outside when they did light up. (This despite the sign at the front door that said, "According to California Law, it is illegal to smoke in this bar. However if a bartender asks you to put out your cigarette, tell him to fuck off.")
It turns out that the one bartender, Peter, is an ex-smoker and apparently has asthma, so he was rather fanatical about enforcing the rule. The other bartender, Danny, who's very easy going (and gives away lots of free drinks; and is a smoker), was actually quite effective just by saying, "Look, man, please don't cause me trouble when I'm trying to do my job. I don't come to where you work and cause trouble on your job."
Then about midnight, Specs himself walked in with a lighted cigarette in his hand. He didn't actually say much, but at this point Peter went ballistic, got his jacket and stormed out of the place. Specs then went behind the bar and started working, and about five minutes later Danny and the bar back were also smoking behind the bar and then about half the customers in the place lit up.
It remains to be seen how that story will come out. Specs usually backs his bartenders up 100% on any issue, but both he and Peter feel very strongly about this smoking issue.
Continuation, Summer 1999. What happened was that Specs and Peter came to a mutually respectful compromise. Peter continued to ask customers politely not to smoke, but was not belligerent if customers ignored the request. This is in fact precisely what the California law requires. Most customers did in fact step into the alley outside the bar to smoke when Peter was on duty, because he's a nice guy and people wanted to respect his concerns. Bartenders needed to be vigilent, however, because there were always a few customers who tried to take their drinks out into the alley, which is a violation of the liquor laws and thus had potentially much more serious consequences for the bar than merely violating the smoking ban.
When Peter was not on duty, bartenders did not object to customers smoking, but for a while, in fact, a lot of customers stepped out into the alley for their cigarettes anyway. Specs asked the bartenders to not smoke while they were actually behind the bar, but they could take as many cigarette breaks as they needed. At first, all the ashtrays were removed from the bar as a token gesture towards compliance with the law, but customers were encouraged to use the floor as an ashtry. (Specs is that kind of bar.)
Within a few months, Peter left town anyway. The ashtrays reappeared and almost nobody bothered to step out into the alley for their cigarettes any more.
The California ban on smoking on bars was extremely unpopular because it was a blatant example of a group of fanatics trying to mind other people's business. (Almost none of the people who advocated the ban went to bars much in the first place.) It was supposedly passed as a way of protecting the health of bartenders, but most bartenders hated it as much as anybody else. I myself am a non-smoker, and I really support encouraging people by any reasonable means not to smoke, but I was tempted to start smoking just so I could defy the law.
One of the immediate consequences of the no-smoking ban was that every morning the sidewalks outside many bars would be littered with cigarette butts, and of course a lot of people (undoubtedly the same people who were so much in favor of the ban) got very upset about that. Eventually most bars made the effort to clean up the sidewalk after closing time. (I myself think that this job should have been given to the anti-smoking activists.)
Within a few months, most of the bars in town (except for the downtown hotel bars and the like) had put their ashtrays back out at nighttime, having discovered that the enforcement of the ban was left up to the Department of Health, which keeps regular business hours. (Specs, incidentally, isn't open in the daytime.) However there were still some customers who refrained from smoking while drinking or stepped outside.
A Conversation at Specs
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