Now, it’s almost here.
On January 3, when NABC’s original Pizzeria & Public House re-opens for business in 2011 following two days closed (New Year’s Day and the usual Sunday), we’ll be smoke-free.
Beginning on the 3rd, smoking no longer will be permitted inside the building at 3312 Plaza Drive – the entire building. No hidden nooks and crannies, and no exceptions, at least if I have anything to say about it. If we’re going to do it, it should be done correctly, or not at all.
Human nature being what it is – customarily dilatory – there was a flurry of “pro” and “con” comments just after the original announcement, and then relative quiet; now, as the “dreaded” day draws near, the prospective policy change has been mentioned a couple of times in conversation, and I’ve started thinking about it again.
There isn’t anything dreadful about it, not at all, at least for the majority of patrons and workers.
It continues to surprise me that even the employees who smoke support the idea of a smoke-free building; in fact, they’re the ones who reintroduced the idea in the first place. Servers are on the front line, and no one knows daily conditions better than they do. If they’re willing to step outside at intervals in order to ensure a full dining room (and more tips), it’s a powerful argument in favor of modernity.
At the same time, there are moments in life when you find yourself standing quite clearly on the wrong side of history, and unfortunately for self-identified regulars who smoke, this is one of those times. For them, a smoking ban is a threat, an affront, and perhaps a mortal insult, and in many ways, I sincerely regret the inconvenience to them. Following is a Facebook comment excerpt from one of them, who I’ve known for a very long time.
“The decision will be bad for most of the regulars, but good for the business (and there will simply be a new group of regulars sprout on the couches like so many potatoes.) I have thought for a LONG time the Sportstime side needed to go non-smoking. There is no division there to separate tables and toddlers. But, I feel the backroom of Rich O’s should stay smoking, at least Mon.-Thurs., when it is full of mostly smoking regulars and there is rarely a wait in non-smoking. Fri.-Sat. may still have smoking regulars, of course, but there is almost always a wait in non-smoking those nights. But policies drawn with wide, straight lines tend to be easier for others to follow. So yes, the smoking will send me out. I cannot imagine that is any kind of surprise, or concern."
They're reasonable thoughts, and although I might choose to tackle the clauses one at a time, much of it can be summarized thusly: Bans on indoor smoking are about workplace safety, period.
If second-hand smoke is harmful, and I personally have come to accept that it is, if to a still uncertain extent, there is no way to protect the health of workers except to make the smoking ban uniform. Compromises are impossible to incorporate, and before someone asks, I opposed the New Albany council’s citywide ban (over-turned by mayoral veto in 2008) precisely because it was porous. If universality in my own place, or the entire city, means that I must give up my cherished cigars indoors, then so be it.
However, since I first read the above earlier today, my thoughts have veered away from pure considerations of the indoor smoking issue.
Instead, I’ve been considering what it means to be a regular in this tobacco-laden context. The complaints about the smoking policy change that I’ve heard so far have come almost entirely from frequent customers who’ve spent much time and money seated in one or both sides of the operation, smoking before, during and after eating and drinking.
Not for a moment is it my intention to be anything but grateful for their patronage over the past years, and it is my sincere hope that when a bit of time has passed, that there’ll still be some way to accommodate them at the Pizzeria & Public House. I like them, and I’ll miss them.
Conversely, I need to state this for the record: Given the many, generally positive, qualities to our business as noted by visitors over the years, ranging from the pizza to the ambience, the staff, and of course the beers, I hope I can be forgiven for expressing personal sadness of an almost overwhelming degree when I hear folks who’ve always rightly viewed themselves as the establishment’s backbone of regular patronage cite smoking as a deal-breaker.
So, that’s all it was, all this time?
That’s all we meant to you – a dry, climate-conditioned place to smoke?
No, I’m not offended. I’m not angry. I’m not anything at all, except very sad, and sad to a profound depth that even I’m surprised at feeling, having concluded long ago that it’s rare for me to feel much of anything, any longer.
To be sure, the longtime friend quoted above is showing uncommon understanding about the situation, and so my comments here are not exclusively directed to her. In fact, I’m not sure my comments are directed at anything or anyone other than to me. It’s like something finally has become clear to me after being hidden all these years, presumably behind a cloud of smoke.
So: It is my belief that those individuals and entities unable to adapt are likely to lose out in the end, and my business continues to evolve. It always has, and I hope it never stops evolving.
Furthermore, I’d like to believe that individuals are capable of evolution and reinvention. I’ve tried to be open to these processes myself, with variable results; just the same, I’ve changed. I'm not the same person at 50 as I was thirty years ago. Thank heavens.
On the other hand, apart from cigars, cigarettes have never been my thing. Perhaps I just don’t know, and can’t possibly fathom, the nicotine angle to this “regular” equation. Perhaps it's the nicotine talking, and not the persons.
You guys will be missing so much. The Pizzeria & Public House is poised to kick ass in 2011, and it’s been a while since I’ve been this excited by the prospects, both aesthetic and commercial. It is unspeakably sad that there’ll be some absences during this wonderful time.
Sad. Very, very sad. I'm not sure what else to say about it, so I'll stop writing.