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The dumbest bar-scene law since Prohibition?

It’s a glorious sunny afternoon after an inglorious winter, but gravel-voiced Tony Trevisone is downright miserable. Scrunched up on a stool, poking at the video-trivia game MegaTouch Force 2003, the daytime barkeep of TC’s Lounge is elaborating on the white sign taped by the door: no smoking due to the dumbest law to hit the bar scene since prohibition.

" It’s horrible, " the smoker huffs about Boston’s two-week-old smoking ban. " We’ve lost a ton of regular customers, probably 75 percent of our daytime business. " He slides off the stool grouchily. " And why do the owners get fined, not the smokers? They’re the ones breaking the law, " he says, motioning to an empty bench holding a hypothetical criminal. " My idea is that if someone lights up, we should call the cops — light up the 911 switchboard and then see how long the ban would be around. " This is clearly a sore spot for Tony; his new name for Mayor Menino is Saddam Menino. " Next week, they’ll be in the bedrooms telling you what you can and can’t do there, " he continues. " Isn’t this America? Shouldn’t we vote on this stuff? " (Note to Tony: there are longstanding sodomy laws, which do, in fact, regulate what people can and cannot do in the privacy their bedrooms.)

Plenty of folks empathize with Trevisone. Like Alan, a bartender at the Midway Café, who says he’s " chewing the hell out of piece of gum " to quell his nicotine fits. " Between [nearby bars] the Drinking Fountain, Doyle’s, and us, there’re gangs of old men on the sidewalk smoking their brains out. " Or Chris Coughlin, bartender and booker at O’Brien’s in Allston, who says that his 76-person-capacity club has already felt the smoking-ban burn. " If [people] can see a band here or three weeks later in Cambridge, they’ll probably go where they can drink and smoke. Even right now, " he says over the phone at 4:20 p.m., " I’m standing here in an empty bar with six people smoking outside. "

But places like TC’s, the Midway, and O’Brien’s are finding ways to cope. TC’s is simply asking its patrons to step onto the pavement for a puff, as are other cover-less places like Boston Billiard or the Good Life Downtown. The Linwood Grille and the Littlest Bar, two joints where sidewalk smoking has become the norm, have placed butt buckets outside their entrances. (The Linwood’s is actually a white pail with a sign that reads butts.) O’Brien’s has a small patio, luckily, but foresees having to hire another person to guard it from sneaky underage drinkers. Other clubs like the Midway, with minor covers but no outdoor patios, are either eyeballing their smokers or stamping their hands for re-entry.

Venues with steeper covers seem to be making immediate concessions, while hinting that more substantial accommodations will soon follow. Thus far, both Avalon and Axis are sending customers to inhale in an outdoor smoking area accessible through the back entrance, while their balcony-equipped neighbors like Embassy and the Modern have built-in accommodations. The Roxy, a nightclub that previously had a no-readmission policy for live concerts, is now forced to grant re-entry. Jamaica Plain’s Milky Way has smokers both stuck on the sidewalk and using an outdoor patio that usually serves as dining space for its sister establishment, Bella Luna. " It’ll probably be converted into a late-night-smoking area at some point, " notes Milky Way business manager and co-owner Carol Downs.

Of course, some people are still unhappy. Tony Talbot, the smoking day manager of Harpers Ferry who now pops out the back entrance for a butt, insists, " This is bad. Bars and clubs are made for drinking and smoking. "

Issue Date: May 23 - 29, 2003
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