When a bar owner made the decision to ban smoking, he worried about the negative feedback he would get.
As he does every July, Brian Maschino closed The Crowbar Inn to give his employees some time off and to do some maintenance to the building. When he got home every night, he couldn’t get over how great it felt for his clothes not to smell like smoke.
In his six years of owning the bar near Trafalgar, Maschino had weighed the pros and cons of going smoke free. In fact, when the county considered a smoking ban, he spoke against it.
But this time, he decided the ban might help business because people had told him they would come eat at his restaurant, but they didn’t want to sit in the smoky environment. When Maschino put the smoke-free announcement on Facebook, he was worried about negative feedback from his customers. But in the first day, he received more than 150 likes and 40 comments, and most were positive and in support of the idea, Maschino said.
Story continues below gallery
“I’m not against smokers. I’m a smoker. You don’t realize the nonsmokers when all you see are smokers, but the restaurant is so much better now,” Maschino said.
“It was a tough decision. I surprised a lot of people, but it’s amazing how many people were for this.”
In the past few years, smoking bans have been a common discussion in communities across the state. Greenwood and Franklin have their own bans, and a statewide ban applies to all other communities that don’t have one that is more strict. For example, Franklin bans smoking in bars, but the state ban does not.
Johnson County had discussed its own ban, but it was not approved one. At the time, Maschino argued against the ban, saying it would hurt his business. But recently, he reconsidered that position. More than 50 percent of the Crowbar’s revenue is from food, he said.
“I take pride in my kitchen. My dad always told me you can go anywhere and get a cold beer, but take pride in your food. I know I’ve got a great kitchen, and I want everyone to be able to enjoy it,” he said.
Maschino is one of two local places that voluntarily banned smoking, and local health officials hope more will follow.
The concern isn’t solely about patrons. The employees who work in restaurants have a right to do so in healthy environments, Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County Director Jane Blessing said.
“I think it’s fantastic. I think it shows their commitment to providing a safe environment for all employees as well as patrons,” Blessing said. “I’m thrilled they realize it’s good for people and good for business. You shouldn’t have to choose between your job and your health.”
The Greenwood VFW Post 5864 made the switch in 2011 to accommodate younger veterans who don’t smoke and their children, Commander Steve Milbourn said.
The post is primarily a restaurant more than a bar, Milbourn said. And officials felt it was in the best interest of business to ban smoking inside.
Since the change to nonsmoking, they still see regular customers and have received positive feedback, Milbourn said.
But other bar owners across the county, especially establishments that run primarily on alcohol sales, say that banning smoking inside would turn away most of their customers.
At Peppers in Greenwood on State Road 135, smokers make up almost 90 percent of the bar’s business, manager Michelle Kluesner said. On the weekend, Peppers serves nearly 300 people a day, she said, and even the customers who don’t smoke regularly will light up when they get a drink in their hand.
The Blind Pig in Greenwood is owned by a nonsmoker and is run by a manager who also doesn’t smoke, but there is no plan to make the switch to nonsmoking, manager Dave Whapham said.
Roughly 75 percent of the customers who visit the Blind Pig are smokers, and the other 25 percent don’t complain when they are there, he said.
“The decision should be left up to bar owners. I believe we will never switch,” Whapham said. “We get a lot of people who don’t smoke, but we also get a lot of new customers because it’s a place they can smoke.”
Peppers won’t voluntarily make the switch because Kluesner fears what it could do to business. The only time Peppers would become nonsmoking is with a change in state or city law that would impose a smoking ban on bars, Kluesner said.
That Place Bar and Grill used to allow smoking, but because it’s located on the north side of County Line Road, the owner had no choice when Indianapolis banned smoking in bars and taverns.
That Place lost almost 40 percent of its customers following the law change, owner Jim Johnson said. Johnson and his sons, who work with him, had to take large pay cuts and he had to borrow money from family just to keep the business going, Johnson said.
“I’m a nonsmoker, but I wouldn’t switch to nonsmoking,” Johnson said. “I’m one of the biggest bars in the city, and when I had to go to nonsmoking we took a beating and still are.”
Here is a look at the smoking rules that impact local bars and restaurants:
State: Smoking is banned in restaurants, public places and other places of employment, but not bars. Smokers must be 8 feet from entrance of public places. Any community that doesn’t have a more strict ban would need to follow the statewide ban.
Greenwood: Smoking is banned in restaurants, public places and other places of employment. Must be 25 feet from entrance of public places that prohibit smoking. Smoking is allowed in bars and hotel rooms designated for smoking.
Franklin: Smoking is banned in bars, hotels, restaurants, public places and other places of employment.