Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 7:31 PM on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Three more Homer bars go smoke free



Photo by Michael Armstrong, Home

The Dawg is going smoke free.

Next Wednesday when the Salty Dawg opens its doors, the iconic bar on the Homer Spit will join a trend started by the Homestead Restaurant in 2002.

The Dawg is going smoke free.

That leaves three public bars in Homer that allow smoking: the Otter Room at the Best Western Bidarka Inn, Kharacters and the Downeast Saloon. Since January, two other longtime smoking bars have gone smoke free, The Alibi and Duggan's Waterfront Pub. With Alice's Champagne Palace having gone smoke free in 2007 and Don Jose's in 2004, Kharacters remains the only smoking bar on Pioneer Avenue. Bars or restaurants with full-beverage bars that previously went smoke free include Wasabi's, Beluga Lake Lodge and Land's End Resort.

"That's what the employees wanted to do," said Salty Dawg owner John Warren in explaining why he chose to go smoke free. "It's really a better work environment. Some of my employees smoke, some don't. The ones that don't appreciate it."

Megan Palma, manager with her husband Nelton of The Alibi, said employee health also was a reason for The Alibi going smoke free in February.

"We started to get concerned about the health and safety of our employees," she said. "It's one thing to smoke cigarettes. It's another thing to be in a smoking environment for 12 hours."

Palma said The Alibi also is focusing more on its menu and bringing new musical acts to town.

"Smoking and a genuine focus on good food don't go hand-in-hand very well," Palma said.

If the bar remained smoking, only smokers or people who can tolerate tobacco smoke would come to see musicians. The Alibi wanted to expand its audience.

That's another positive effect a smoking ban has had: musicians appreciate it more, said Adrienne Sweeney, the new owner of Duggan's. Sweeney and her husband Alex own the Driftwood Inn across Bunnell Avenue from Duggan's and bought the bar from previous owner Chip Duggan in mid-January.

"They love it," Sweeney said. "Hobo Jim commented it feels so good to finish up at midnight. It was great on his lungs."

She said making musical acts open to more audiences also was a reason for going smoke free.

The Sweeneys have been remodeling Duggan's and plan to turn it into a family-friendly steakhouse, with a grand opening and new name in May. Their new vision for the Old Town landmark was another reason for going smoke free.

To give regulars time to adjust, Sweeney said she waited until well after the Super Bowl to make the change. Duggan's officially became smoke free on April 2.

"So far we've had pretty good feedback," Sweeney said. "Everybody's been positive. They go home at night and don't have to jump in the shower."

At The Alibi, response to the smoking ban has been good, Palmer said.

"Even our hard-core regular smokers have given us positive feedback," she said. "Even people who smoke cigarettes don't want to sit in a smoke filled room."

Warren said he hopes Salty Dawg customers will appreciate the change. To accommodate smokers, an outside heated area is open for them.

"I'm sure there will be some people who don't agree with it," he said. "I kind of hope they'll understand."

Out-of-state visitors to the Dawg have told Warren they're surprised smoking is still allowed, he said. Smoking also has turned away potential customers.

"There's always a crowd that goes out there that says it's too smoky," Warren said. "Hopefully they'll come out."

When Land's End went smoke free several years ago, the transition went well, said general manager Patrick Cashman.

"It just made a lot of sense," he said. "We've never looked back."

All of Land's End is smoke free, including rooms, the bar and restaurant. Cashman said the big issue for Land's End was allergies nonsmokers have to tobacco smoke. At the same time, Land's End wanted to accommodate smokers. They can smoke outside on the deck.

"It's probably one of the most beautiful designated smoking areas on the planet," Cashman said.

Beluga Lake Lodge is another hotel, bar and restaurant that is smoke free, and has been for six years. The lodge will even fine smokers $200 for the cost of clean up if they smoke in rooms, said general manager Diane Hively. Doug Johnson owns the Beluga Lake Lodge and the Best Western.

Warren came back to employee health as the reason for the smoking ban.

"The reason we're doing this is for the people who work there's benefit," he said. "And everybody's benefit, really."

The Homer City Council in 2003 considered a ban on smoking in all businesses except bars. That ordinance failed after spirited public opposition, but the council did ban smoking in all city buildings. Homer Alliance for Fresh Air, an organization that lobbied for smoking bans and encouraged businesses to go smoke free, quit operations after a grant funding it ran out.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.