By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Jan 13, 2010 at 10:16 AM

Leave it to the beautiful Pfister Hotel to make smoking in a parking structure "sexy."

As we were leaving the hotel after breakfast at the café on Sunday morning, I noticed something new -- a "smoking oasis" in the parking structure. Intrigued, I checked it out and went to hotel staff with some questions.

Since November, the hotel and its restaurants have been 100 percent smoke-free, so the hotel needed a comfortable place for guests and diners to light up. Not wanting to send them out to the street, it built an "oasis" in its parking structure.

As a non-smoker, I must say that this new smoking area looks pretty nice. Compare it to those smoking corrals that you see at airports and bus terminals, this place is smoking heaven.

"The space is used daily -- our guests have been pleased to have a spot out of the elements to smoke in, protected from the wind, rain and the snow. Our guests attending functions on the seventh floor in the ballroom have also embraced the space, as it gives a convenient location to step outside of catering events as well," said Joe Kurth, general manager at The Pfister Hotel.

One of the benefits, I think, of the impending statewide indoor smoking ban will be increased opportunities for creating inviting outdoor patios and spaces for eating, drinking and smoking. When designed well, they can enhance streetscapes and increase business by welcoming passersby.

Look at most states with bans -- people expect now to smoke outdoors.

"Our travelers expect to smoke outside, as all of the surrounding states already have this in place. We have consistently heard from the visitors from New York, California, Florida and Illinois how surprised people were that we had allowed interior smoking," said Kurth.

Having an inviting space to smoke outside actually increases business inside.

"We have been very pleased to see the increase in visitors in Blu and Mason Street Grill since converting to non-smoking, as the 80 percent of non-smokers have been thrilled and passing the word that we were eight months ahead of the state mandated deadline."

The Pfister's smoking oasis is located in the Mason Street parking garage.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.