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Monday, Jan. 5, 2015


Area establishments raise the bar on smoke-free environments


Depending what night you walk into Bear’s on Fairfield, it’s quite possible you’ll see a sign at the door that says “smoke-free night.”

It’s something bar owner Chase Boytim has been pushing, and after many states (including neighboring Texas) have completely banned smoking in public bars, Louisiana seems to be jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to banning cigarette or cigar smoking.

“Ending smoking in bars will help bars,” said Boytim, who has worked in the bar industry for most of his adult life. “A lot of my friends disagree, but I talk to countless people that refuse to go to bars because of the smoke. I work in my bars almost every night of the week, and I am personally concerned for my health and my employees’ health.”

Boytim recently reopened Bear’s on Fairfield, and after owning Fatty Arbuckle’s in the Red River District, he knew to tailor his bar by using his customer’s experiences. One of those was offering a designated smoke-free night.

“I have plans to go partially smoke-free on Jan. 1 and then start building a smoking patio. I’m hoping to be completely smoke-free by May 1,” Boytim said. “As far as my views on the law, I am personally for smoke-free bars. I don’t smoke and prefer to drink at places that don’t have smoking. I will also start serving food on Jan. 1.” 

The movement to ban smoking in public spaces is gaining traction in Louisiana. Currently, there are five cities and one parish that support smoke-free bars: Monroe, West Monroe, Woodworth, Alexandria and Cheneyville, and Ouachita Parish. Now public health advocates have turned their attention to New Orleans.

Healthier Air For All is the initiative launched by the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living. Their aim is to make every city, parish and business smoke-free.

Shreveport has already been “smoke-free” since January 2007 when Louisiana’s Smoke Free Air Act 815 went into effect. The act prohibits smoking in most indoor public places and workplaces, including all restaurants (with or without a bar), cafes, school campuses, sports arenas, banks, hotel/motel lobbies and bowling alleys, among other places. 

As of now, most bars in Shreveport still allow smoking inside, but they also provide outdoor patio areas. 

Izzy Whitington, a former resident of Shreveport who now lives in Little Rock, Ark., said the last time she visited Shreveport her night was cut short because of all the smoke in the bars she visited.

“Most of the bars in Little Rock ban indoor smoking and instead provide patio space for smokers,” Whitington said. “It makes the experience a lot more pleasurable for non-smokers and still provides space to smokers.”

One of the only bars in Shreveport built smoke-free is Great Raft Brewing, located at 1251 Dalzell St. in the Fairfield Historic District. 

Lindsay Nations, co-owner of Great Raft, said it was a “no-brainer” when it came to making that call.

“We wanted the tasting room to not only be a fun place to hang out but also an education environment, where the community can learn about different styles of beer. It is very hard to detect the nuances of a beer’s aroma or flavor while smoking a cigarette or being subjected to someone else’s secondhand smoke. 

After living in Washington, D.C., for almost eight years, when the couple moved home to Shreveport, Nations said she couldn’t believe her hometown was still allowing smoking in bars.

She hasn’t had any major issues with any customers, and since opening, she’s only had two offenses. 

“We don’t even have any no-smoking signs up, so to only have two offenses in the past 12 months is impressive. There haven’t been any complaints,” she said. “We have two designated smoking areas outside with designated disposals. More than anything, we’ve had people thank us time and time again for making GRB a smoke-free environment.“

The U.S. Congress has not attempted to enact any nationwide federal smoking ban; therefore, smoking bans in the United States are entirely a product of state and occupational safety and health laws.


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