2 PM, Club 21
The closest dive to the Mercury office is also one of the more fumid bars in town. Again, there's that whole problem with slinking back to the office after lunch smelling of scotch and the fires of Hades. It seems that as the day wears on, there's no longer a need to ask about the ban. As soon as I sit down at the bar, Anette the tender sighs and announces, "I can't image what it's going to be like to walk into the bar tomorrow and not put the ashtrays out." This prompts a conversation that last the length of my lunch.
Topics covered: the impending smell, the noise of outdoor smokers, chain-smoking video crack addicts.
And during the entire dialogue, a gentleman with a small brown poodle ("helper dog," he grumbles) sits off to the side, gurgling with every breath. It's like a percussion section made entirely of wet gravel. It may be the best argument in favor of the smoking ban.
2:45 PM Mary's Club
"I'm mixed on it," says bartender Kelly. "As a bartender I'm happy. I have a newborn and I'm tired of going home and reeking of smoke. But as a smoker I'm not happy."
I sit and watch one of the dancers sets and in a dark corner of the bar a man's face is suddenly suffused with light as he strikes a match to light his cancer stick. Last time I'll see that in a bar.
Kelly tells me that a lot of the dancers have complained that they'll have to dress and go outside to smoke. It's a scary thought. Burnside, for what it's worth, is not necessarily the best place for a young woman to be smoking alone on the street.
An anonymous dancer tells me that she's excited about the ban. "I can't wait to quit," she says. "I lie to my son about smoking," she explains, telling me that she'll be happy to be a better example. The topic then moves to spit cups, which will likely increase. There are many disgusted face made.
But Mary's Club is often so smoky that I can only imagine dancing here is more like swimming through a light blue haze. Still, everyone hopes that business will increase as people who may have shied away from the smoke take a chance.
As I'm leaving I hear a man shout, "Smoke up, motherfuckers."
4 PM, the Matador
Bartender Elizabeth also has mixed emotions about the ban. "I definitely think we enjoy the fact that we're a smoking bar," she tells me, but she doesn't think it's going to affect business because all bars are going to be non-smoking.
As far as her customers are concerned, "A lot of people feel like we have too many laws as it is," she says. "It should be a choice. Maybe we should just have better filtration." But she agrees with just about every bartender I've talked to. "It'll be nice not to have to empty ashtrays," she says.
Elizabeth tells me that the cigarette suppliers are betting on a run tonight. The Matadors machine is fully stocked at this moment.
So, here I am. A Bushmills and a dwindling pack. Intermittently, I can overhear sad patrons saying things like, "It should be the bars choice,"
But it's not. Not anymore.
Up next on the Black Lung tour: Dot's, Reel em' Inn, Clinton Street Pub and others
Cigarettes smoked thus far: 16