"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs -- including guides, the latest trends, bartender profiles and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
The smoking ban went into effect last July, and a lot of bar owners thought they would have to take measures to accommodate outdoor smoking. Most bars put ashtrays outside if they weren’t there already, and some took it a step further.
For example, T.J. Aliota Restaurant, 261 E. Hampton Rd., built a "smoke shed" in the parking lot behind the strip mall where the restaurant is located. It features chairs, a CO2 monitor, a smoke detector, two heaters and three windows for increased ventilation.
"Everyone seems to like it," says employee John Post. "If it gets too smoky in there, we can also open the door. It beats standing in the cold and rain."
Dave Schultz is the co-owner of The Bridge Inn in Grafton, and he created a smokers' area at his establishment, too.
"It’s basically an outdoor deck area with plastic sides and heaters hanging from the ceiling," says Schultz.
Schultz says his structure accommodates about 25 people at a time, which is needed for his bar.
"There were a lot of complaints from our people prior to the ban, but after we did this they seem pretty satisfied," he says.
Other bars like Wonder Bar, 5520 W. Vliet St., Walker’s Pint, 818 S. 2nd St., The Mad Planet, 533 E. Center St., Kelly’s Bleachers, 5218 W. Bluemound Rd., and The Pfister, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., have created enclosed or partially enclosed spaces for smokers. There are not "ideal" smoking conditions, as Schultz point out.
"Even with the heaters, if it’s 5 degrees outside, it’s only going to be about 40 in the smoking area," he says.
And some watering holes, like the Y-Not II, 706 E. Lyon St., and The Irish Knot, 2479 N. Fratney St., aren’t worrying about it too much.
"The Irish Knot just put a plastic table and chairs outside next to a five-gallon drum ashtray," says Kyla Lahaie, who quit smoking last St. Patrick’s Day. "Totally makes me wish I was still a smoker."
Mike Eitel owner of The Nomad and partner in The Lowlands Group -- owners of Trocadero, Cafe Hollander on Downer Avenue and in Wauwatosa and Cafe Centraal -- says he added a heated tent to the courtyard at Cafe Centraal and planned to offer similar heated outdoor areas at his other places, but found it unnecessary.
"There just wasn't a big enough demand to keep the fires burning. Even at The Nomad, we didn't really end up doing anything. The grumbling about non-smoking is virtually non-existent and people seem to just be dealing with the fact that smoking needs to happen outside," says Eitel.
"Its kinda like the idea of smoking on an airplane. It used to happen all the time and now you'd think it was the strangest thing ever. My guess is that in a few years, most people will look back with disbelief that it was even allowed in public rooms."
Scott Johnson, co-owner of The Fuel, The Comet, Bel Air Cantina and Palomino, agrees with Eitel that the demands for smokers’ accommodations are almost non-existent.
"We’ve had hardly any complaints. I mean, I know folks hate to smoke outside when its cold, but they understand the rules. Generally speaking, the smoking ban has been great for business," says Johnson.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.