BY January 1, most of the McCormick and Schmick's local restaurants—which have over 60 locations around the country, with six in the Portland area—went smoke free. "Isn't it great?" remarked the hostess at the McCormick and Schmick's Seafood Restaurant on SW 1st and Jefferson. A hostess at the Bridgeport Village M&S Grill said the change to non-smoking has happened over the past few months (though that location has always been smoke-free). 

But a few blocks away at Jake's Grill, tucked into the Governor Hotel on SW 10th, employees aren't as excited about the new company policy. That's because their location isn't stubbing out the cigars, which are popular with the regulars at the clubby bar. "Not here," a Jake's Grill host confirmed on Tuesday.

"Every indication I've heard from the general manager and the office manager, every place is going smokeless except for this one, because it is such a cigar bar," says one employee, Wes Mitchell, who quit last week over concerns for his health. He'd heard that the general manager at Jake's Grill requested an exemption from the smoking policy. "They're taking a little money over the health of their employees."

A few weeks ago, Mitchell—a server at the restaurant for a year and a half—was picking up drinks from the bar, as usual. "There were 15 people smoking," he says. "I got a cold two days later, and was laid up for three days. It's very bad." Mitchell says that he and other employees—as well as customers—have complained to managers, but didn't receive the response they wanted. According to Mitchell they were told, "If you don't like it you can quit, because there's 20 other people who would take your job."

So he did—and he's thinking of launching a protest in front of the restaurant, to draw attention to the smoking policy on behalf of the people who still work there. "I can afford to pursue it if it's worth pursuing. I want to help my coworkers. A lot of them are stuck."

McCormick and Schmick's did not return several calls about the company's smoking policy by press time.