Co-owner Glen Keely says that the response to Poag’s new policy has been overwhelmingly positive. Photo by Vishal Malhotra.

A few months ago, I wrote a pair of columns (one in May, the other in June) about Smoke-Free Fort Worth, the new nonprofit campaigning for a comprehensive ban on smoking in the workplace. In the interest of judiciously utilizing the pulpit provided here, I promised not to write another piece about smoking unless something interesting happened, but Poag Mahone’s is now in its second week of being smoke-free. I figured that was something worth talking about.
Never been to Poag’s? It’s a large Irish pub on the corner of 6th and Carroll, across from Montgomery Plaza, and for seven years, it allowed its patrons to smoke indoors. But on September 1, Poag’s owners took the plunge. According to co-owner Glen Keely, he and business partner Will Wells finally had had enough.
“We looked into going no-smoking over a year ago,” Keely said. “But when we posted about it on Facebook, the feedback was pretty negative, so we ixnayed that idea.”
Keely and Wells also own the newish downtown cocktail lounge Thompson’s, which has been smoke-free from Day One.
“Since we opened Thompson’s,” Keely said, “I don’t spend nearly as much time at Poag’s, but I went to Poag’s one night for some drinks, and the next morning, I was totally congested. When you’re in a smoky environment all the time, I guess you just get used to it. But the way my clothes smelled, the way my body felt, that was pretty much it for me with having smoke inside the bar. We didn’t want to piss people off, but it was time to rip the Band-Aid off.”
I’ve talked to a few other bar owners who still allow smoking. Not surprisingly, they haven’t banned it indoors for fear of alienating longtime regulars and losing revenue. But Keely told me that the response to Poag’s new policy has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Leading up to it,” he said, “there were a lot of regulars who were pretty angry about us going no-smoking, saying how they’d never come back or whatever. But you know what? They’re still filling their regular seats.”
And as for lost revenue, Keely told me they’re busier than ever: “I know it’s early on, and the timing might be a factor because school is back in and all, but this past weekend was our busiest non-event Saturday since 2009. It was awesome to see the kids back.”
Keely pointed out that young drinkers are accustomed to smoke-free bars: “Most kids have probably never even been in smoky bars, because everywhere else [outside of Fort Worth], you can’t smoke inside.”
I maintain that if a regular customer vows to leave and never come back because your bar goes no-smoking, there is probably at least one person who will happily fill his or her vacated seat –– a funny thing about bars is that they’re kept in business by alcohol sales, not clouds of second-hand smoke. Remember that the next time someone at your bar starts fuming over his “right” to smoke in a bar. If he refuses to drink at your establishment without a cigarette clamped between his fingers, chances are excellent that a non-smoker will happily take his place.
Keely said, “My employees are a lot happier and so are our customers. I keep hearing how this person or that person quit coming to Poag’s because of how smoky it was, and it’s really nice to see those people back in the bar. Maybe we’ve lost a few regulars who are adamant about being able to smoke in a bar, and that sucks. … But it’s a matter of employee health and customer service. And we have a lot of customers who are really happy we made the decision to go smoke-free.” — Steve Steward

[box_info]Poag Mahone’s Irish Pub
700 Carroll St, FW.

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