Smoke ’em while you got ’em

Dale’s of Milwaukee

By - Jun 21st, 2010 04:00 am
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In preparation for the impending smoking ban, the staff at TCD bellied up to some of our favorite bars in Milwaukee to hear what tavern owners and patrons had to say. Check back each weekday until July 2 as we chat with  folks at places like The Riverwest Tavern, The Cactus Club and even the Landmark Lanes to see what people think about a smoke-free Milwaukee. The opinions are diverse and varied as this years-long debate nears to a close. At the end of this series, we’ll also talk to the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, an agency that helped implement the Smoke-Free Wisconsin Act (Act 12) here in Milwaukee.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks, and enjoy!

— Your neighborhood Managing Editor, Erin Lee Petersen

Photos by Nicole Braunsdorf

My first legal drink was at Dale’s of Milwaukee, located at 6132 West Capitol Drive, 27 years ago.

I still remember; it was a Canadian Club on the rocks with a mushroom. It wasn’t just two fingers of Canadian Club either. Dale and his bartender’s fill that high ball glass straight to the top, for everyone. I was the ‘Norm’ of this bar for over 15 years.  There are not many neighborhood bars that are classy, have amazing food and a great owner.  In fact there aren’t many neighborhood bars that have had the same owner for over 30 years.

Nothing has changed since the first time I stepped foot into Dale’s nearly three decades ago. Anyone familiar with this bar is aware of its great food and soup specials, the stiff drinks, the reasonable prices, the incredible Christmas displays both outside and inside and Dale’s clown name: “Happy-Happy. ” In fact instead of saying “Cheers” or “Thank you” people still say “Happy-Happy” before taking a sip of a drink that another patron (or the bar) bought for them.

Although I don’t live near Dale’s any longer, I still try to drop in every once in a while (nearly not often enough, sorry Dale) to say hello and have a drink and a bowl of soup. So when I got wind of this series on TCD, I jumped at the chance to head back to my old stomping grounds and get Dale’s perspective on the impending smoking ban.

When I walked in, it was home sweet home. The soup specials that day were Chicken Mushroom Pilaf and Country Carrot and right away I ordered two bowls to go.

Dale recognized me immediately and he didn’t have ANY problem letting me know what he thinks about the ban.

“I think this whole ban is socialistic in nature. If people don’t like the smoke they should find a place that caters to them. Instead, I am forced to change how I do business. I have a lot of regulars that smoke, I’m going to lose a lot of money and it’s going to cost me a lot of money.”

Dale was livid, and he was just getting started.

“These politicians…they remind me of bookies…10 percent off the top no matter what. Seriously, how much is it going to cost me to build a place outdoors so people can smoke now? I’ll tell you how much, a lot. They are basically forcing me to spend money on something like that.  Then how much more cleaning will I need to do once I add an outdoor addition … I don’t like it when people stick their nose in another’s business. This is ,without a doubt, going to hurt my business.”

Then without a beat, a customer chimed in. “I’m not a smoker” the customer said, “but my problem with this ban is that it is the government telling a private business person, in that person’s own privately-owned building, that they are not allowed to have a legal product used in their establishment. A legal product mind you, that this very same government subsidizes millions of dollars every year to farmer’s so they can grow it. Where’s the logic in that?”

Then I saw a woman at the end of the bar light up. I walked over, asked her name and inquired about what she’s going to do once the ban goes into effect. Rena calmly looked at me as she was smoking and replied “I’m just going to stop smoking, it’s only logical isn’t it?”

Then, after a long pause Rena touched me on the shoulder and said “And I’ll tell you something else; I’ll be going out a lot less frequently as well.”

0 thoughts on “Smoke ’em while you got ’em: Dale’s of Milwaukee”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I went to Dale’s once. We ate, had one beer, and left quickly. I was a 2-pack smoker and bartender back then, but the smokey air at Dale’s was way too much for me to handle. Probably one of the smokiest places I have ever been. I never went back because of the smoke, but I have been super excited to go back after the 5th.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great series. It makes me want to go out to that place I had my first LEGAL drink, to celebrate the ban. That would be Hooligans. I haven’t been there in years, not due to the smoke, but due to maturity, I think. BTW, that first legal drink was also the first time I was ever carded. Funny and ironic.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dale clearly doesn’t get it. A private *business* is not the same as a private residence: if it’s his house, he can let or prevent anyone from doing anything legal. But (to take a blunt comparison) even though his bar is private property, he cannot choose to exclude customers because of their race, etc., even though he or anyone else could do so from their own private homes.

    Wisconsin is not Mars: every other state that’s had smoking bans has survived. Rather than bitching about “having to” build an outdoor patio, why doesn’t Dale recognize it as an improvement to his bar – since on the few warm days we have here, people like to be outside?

    As for the “legal product” thing: just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s legal anywhere under all circumstances…or do you think Dale would mind if I decide to practice my trombone at his bar? After all, there’s no law against trombones – who’s he to tell me I can’t use a legal product?

    Grumble grumble gripe gripe – if Dale goes out of business, he’ll deserve it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    thomerwald, you would think different if you owned a business.

  5. Anonymous says:

    As a business owner, I cannot force my employees to work in a cloud of carcinogenic gasses, nor would I even consider doing so. Neither can Harley, Johnson Controls, or Falk Corp. Nor should Dale be able to.
    Beleive it or not, in California, if it’s truly a family-owned,family-operated bar, with no non-family employees, it may allow smoking. But no business owner should be allowed to compel an employee to risk his health to make a living. We enacted child-labor laws, too, and OSHA and state and local departments watch out for our health on the job everyday. Bar employees deserve the same protections, customers’ addictions and cranky bar owners notwithstanding.

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