Smell the coffee not the smoke- Customers increase as Carl’s- The Saloon goes smoke-free
Northern Nevada Business Weekly
By Marcus Villagran
Ron Svasek, co-owner of Carl’s — The Saloon, walked into his pub on a recent morning and smelled the coffee, something he said he was never able to do before.
“It’s been a smell in the bar for years but I never smelled it over the cigarette smoke,” Svasek said in a phone interview with NNBW. “That was the day that I really knew I had done the right thing.”
Carl’s – The Saloon, a local gay bar, implemented the new policy on Friday, April 28. According to Svasek, the change has already brought in new customers to his business.
“We’ve gotten 12 new faces in the bar, people that had never been in the bar before and heard that we were a non-smoking bar,” he said about the first weekend following the policy change.
Svasek and co-owners John Lysight and John Bachelor had noticed over the years that fewer and fewer of their customers were smoking. Svasek explained that many of his new customers were coming from California where they’d become accustomed to non-smoking businesses.
“Having that kind of an influx in the population has got to affect businesses here in Reno and especially our business where it’s a small, friendly kind of bar,” Svasek said.
Nevada passed similar laws on tobacco, but with exceptions. On Dec. 8, 2006, the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act prohibited smoking tobacco in most public spaces and indoor spaces of employment. However, smoking still was allowed in places like casinos and stand-alone bars.
Svasek took this into consideration when making the decision to go smoke-free.
“We have an enormous clientele that works in the hospitality industry,” he explained. “They breathe smoke 24/7 when they’re at work. And when they go out they don’t want that. They want to be able to go someplace where they can enjoy themselves and breath the air and laugh without choking.”
A couple days after the new policy went into effect, Carl’s held a beer buzz event. Svasek noticed at least 15 customers he hadn’t seen in almost a decade.
“Over the years (they) had developed breathing issues or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or couldn’t take being around the smoke,” Svasek said. “How much business have I really been losing by having the smoking issue?”
Surprisingly, all three co-owners of Carl’s are smokers.
“I don’t think that, as diehard a smoker as I am, I have the right to impose that on everybody else at the bar just because it’s something I like to do,” he said. “I have a spouse. I do not smoke in my own house. I haven’t for 17 years. Why should I smoke in the bar?”
The new policy coincides with sweeping renovations to the bar including new décor, paint and paneling for the ceiling.
“We decided since all the new stuff we were doing wasn’t going to smell like cigarettes, we weren’t going to let it get to smell like cigarettes,” Svasek said.
Smokers are still welcome at Carl’s. The co-owners have established a designated smoking area outside the bar.
“It’s something so many restaurants and businesses should do, not just for their customers, but for bartenders that are in there breathing that every day, every shift, all day long,” he added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking contributes to over 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S.