Butt out | VailDaily.com

Butt out

Wren Wertin

It used to be at the Coyote Cafe. The bar at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain was legendary for apres ski, filled to the gills with skiers, snowboarders and smoke. Walk in, and a person immediately smoked two packs of cigarettes whether or not they intended to inhale.

But that’s the Coyote of seasons past. After a successful trial run this summer, the bar has a new policy for the winter: no smoking until 9:30 p.m.

“The whole smoking/nonsmoking issue is comparable to pro life/pro choice for some people,” said Coyote manager “Buzz” Busby. “The response here has been 10-fold, very positive from people … The biggest surprise came from the smokers who thought it was a good idea. Their nonsmoking friends wouldn’t come in here with them because it was too smokey. Now they do.”

Busby says because smoking has become such a big issue nationwide, people are ready for nonsmoking action. The Coyote has been a smoking venue for 19 years, and has made a name for itself with visitors around the globe. Busby is working on an article for Skiing Magazine on historic apres ski bars across the country.

“It’s a very special atmosphere, an old-world place,” he explained. “We were limiting people’s access to that since they were turned off by the cigarette smoke. It’s opened up a totally different clientele.”

Included in there are ski and snowboard instructors who might be more inclined to bring their clients in for a couple of brews. For a place where the smoky atmosphere actually was remarked upon frequently, it’s quite a change.

The Half Moon Saloon does the occasional nonsmoking concert, but he reserves them for big bands that draw a crowd regardless of the circumstances.

“They go over very, very well,” said owner Justin Hurley. “Even the smokers tell me they enjoy it when I do it, but I couldn’t do it every night.”

Why not?

“I would go out of business if we went nonsmoking,” he replied.

He’s noticed that bigger bluegrass or roots music shows do best nonsmoking. Tony Furtado, a banjo and slide guitar player popular locally, used to request nonsmoking shows. He doesn’t have to anymore, since he knows Hurley usually makes the shows nonsmoking anyway.

The Dillon Dam Brewery went nonsmoking in June of 2001. Such a significant change in policy is bound to meet with resistance initially, and they did. But what began as a setback has turned into a major asset for the restaurant and brewery.

“It was a tough decision,” said Peter Kyle, a co-owner of the brewery. “Initially when our sales went down, we questioned it. But we decided to take the time and ride it out. We were able to overcome that, mainly by advertising and bringing in new customers who really thought it was a more enjoyable atmosphere for dining. It took time, but we’re now seeing increases throughout this whole year.”

One of Dam Brewery’s managers, George Blincoe, has had a lot of positive feedback from repeat customers. They are a destination brewery, meaning most people drive there specifically.

A key factor in their success was looking at their core clientele. Since most of their patrons come to eat, it worked for them. Other places that have a large late-night scene would likely lose a portion of their clientele, he said.

Chris Doyle, general manager of Bob’s Place in Avon, agrees.

“We were considering going nonsmoking, but it’s just not enticing,” he said. “According to some percentages I found when we were researching it, 80 percent of Americans don’t smoke, and of that number, 20 percent of them drink. Of the 20 percent that do smoke, 90 percent of them drink. Based on those statistics, it’s not an attractive offer.”

Since alcohol accounts for roughly one half of their business, Doyle feels banning smoking would be a terrible mistake, as their regulars would simply wander to some other bar. They try to give something to everyone by making the restaurant side nonsmoking and the bar area smoking.

When the Avon Town Council discussed becoming nonsmoking, Doyle was in favor of it. But until that happens, Bob’s Place will be a smoking place.

“I’m looking at the bar, and there’s probably 25 people here,” he said. “And 20 of them are smoking.”

Boulder is nonsmoking city-wide. It began as a petition by the people in November of 1989, and eventually became a law. Though it initially incurred quite a lot of opposition from business owners, it’s now seen as a positive thing, said Deputy City Clerk Sandy North.

“Liquor store and smaller bar owners felt they might be affected by the smokers not coming to their establishments,” she said. “That really did not seem to be the case, there was not a drop in patrons.”

But she acknowledges it’s easier for everyone to go nonsmoking than for a few restaurants to go out on their own. The Coyote and Dam Brewery are unique in their decision to go for it. One of the things that has worked for the Coyote is their location. There are few more convenient spots to sidle into after a day’s play on the hill; the people are already there.

For now, it looks like going drinking or dancing are equivalent to smoking. As Doyle noted:

“If we went nonsmoking we might get people who came in maybe once a week. But our regulars come more than that. Why would we alienate them?”

The business of serving drinks to smokers it just too profitable. For now, ashtrays are part of the decor.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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