The Pioneer Bar in Haines, Alaska, hosted a big smoke-in on April 20th.
Two days later, the establishment bucked 50 years of family tradition and went smoke-free.
“It was a huge decision for us. Next to having my kids, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said co-owner and operator Christy Fowler.
“I don’t even know how it’s going to turn out financially yet, but it’s the right thing and I feel really good about it,” she added.
The long-contemplated move to a smoke-free workplace coincided with her sons, 11-year-old Chevy and seven-year-old Marty, coming home with second-hand smoke awareness posters they’d drawn in school.
The boys, along with their mom and dad, live above the Bamboo Room Restaurant and Pioneer Bar, in an apartment that welcomes the wafts from below.
Besides subjecting her children to second-hand smoke, Christy and Bob Fowler realized that the restaurant they’d run for 17 years had become dysfunctional.
Too many non-smokers were requesting seat changes, and wouldn’t go sit at the bar in busy times.
The employees, some of whom are smokers, are reportedly on board with the change. So are many long-term customers, many of whom are trying to quit.
The bar owner also expects that tourists from smoke-free southern realms will feel more at home with the change.
The big unknown is whether Fowler will lose too much business to the status-quo bars in Haines.
“It really helped for us, making this decision, to have Whitehorse having done it already and to have Juneau doing it,” Fowler said.
Smokers drink twice as much as non-smokers, but there are three times as many non-smokers, the businesswoman quoted from statistics she’d read.
The bar has already lost some longtime customers with the new fog-lifting ban, but Fowler said she can live with that.
“That isn’t the way I usually lose them,” she said, adding the usual way was lung cancer.