We celebrated Karen’s birthday a few weeks late by celebrating the Chicago’s new Clean Indoor Air Ordinance a few days early at the Charleston tavern in Bucktown. When I read back in December (Chicago Trib, registration required) how this neighborhood bar had gone smoke-free back in October, three months (and in some cases two and a half years!!) before bars and restaurants are required by the city to follow suit, I immediately wanted to support this smoke-free watering hole.
I sent out an email to friends to round up an outing but it wasn’t until last Friday when we finally made over. I’d heard about the Charleston from friends who lived in the neighborhood, but my days of patronizing bars has long been over. It’s not just my asthma that’s kept me out of smokey establishments; there’s nothing I hate more after an evening out than coming home smelling like an ashtray. My clothes would head straight to the laundry room, my coat would be banished to the dry cleaners (via the garage), and I couldn’t lay my head down on the pillow until I’d washed the smoke smell out of my hair.
I grew up in California which has had a smoking ban in effect for a number of years. When it passed, I heard the same sort of gripping, but the world didn’t end as we know it, people didn’t stop eating and drinking in public, and now dining and drinking out in the Sunshine State isn’t a toxic experience. I’ve always been frustrated by Chicago’s failure to follow suit. Until now.
The only hitch is that bars and restaurants with bars have a grace period stretching until July of 2008 (!!) in which to comply to the ordinance. So, in trying to temper complaints, rather than making everyone comply at the same time (creating a level playing field) what the city has done is punish any bar owner who complies with the ordinance early, thereby giving credence to the argument that it will hurt business. If you can’t smoke anywhere, you’ll take it outside, but continue to patronize your favorite bar, but this way, smokers are more likely to take their business elsewhere, at least until July 2008.
Until that time, I plan to give the Charleston, a funky, friendly, low key, comfortable local tavern more of my business.