When a Bargersville bar owner began noticing that customers were leaving before even sitting down to eat, he started looking into why they weren’t coming inside.
The answer was clear: they wanted to eat there but didn’t want to deal with the smoke, said Tom Umbarger, the owner of Bargersville Bar & Grill.
It was time for a change, he decided, and Monday will be the first day smoking is no longer allowed.
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The change is one that at least two other bars in Johnson County have made in the last year. The Blind Pig Bar in Greenwood began its own smoking ban at the beginning of September, a decision made to attract more customers, the owner said.
Last year, The Crowbar Inn also made the decision to go smoke-free, also with the idea of opening up the restaurant to more people.
“We’re thrilled they are making that decision on their own,” said Tobacco Free Johnson County Coordinator Nancy Voris.
Local health officials have said they hope more bars will continue to decide to go smoke-free.
The decision to ban smoking is important not only for the health of customers but for the health of employees who have to work every day in the smoke, Voris said.
The state has banned smoking at both restaurants and private workplaces but has left it up to bar owners to make their own decisions.
Some local cities, such as Franklin, ban smoking in bars. In Greenwood, it is legal. Johnson County Commissioners approved a ban on smoking in bars in 2012 but quickly repealed it after complaints from bar owners.
Umbarger began keeping an eye on his customers after a discussion with a relative about how the percent of adults who smoke has been going down significantly, he said.
Though Umbarger and many of his employees smoke, he said the change is the right decision.
He purchased the bar — formerly known as Red’s Place — in 2014.
While some of Umbarger’s patrons who smoke have told him they disagree with the decision, they at least respect that he made the choice on his own, rather than it being through a government decree, Umbarger said.
To make the transition at Bargersville Bar & Grill to being smoke-free, a cleaning company will come in Sunday to work on removing the tobacco smell.
They will also set off air purifiers Sunday and Monday night to freshen the building.
The number of people who smoke has been steadily dropping, according to data from the Center for Disease Control.
Amount of U.S. adults who smoke
2004: 20.9 percent
2014: 16.8 percent
Percent of Indiana adults who smoke
Percent of Johnson County adults who smoke