Regano’s Roman Coin
A smoke-free Wisconsin is just around the corner. Honestly, I don’t really know how I feel about the smoking ban. Part of me can’t wait to walk out of a bar and not smell like an ashtray. However, the other part of me will miss the ambiance — the billowing clouds of smoke, the smell and even the coughing—it’s all just part of going out!
Some bars will suffer more than others under Act 12. Many establishments in Milwaukee have already made the transition quite smoothly. I think it will be a little tougher at other places, especially neighborhood bars. One problem is that the law is a bit confusing. Smoking will still be allowed in certain facilities, including casinos. In addition, an amendment passed in April will allow smoking in places that have a roof, but not more than two substantial walls.
Alright, enough of the legal jargon. Let’s talk about who the ban really affects: the customers. I recently visited one of my favorite watering holes to see what the clientele think. For me, Regano’s Roman Coin on Brady Street means several things: Christmas lights year round, regulars at all hours of the day, chili cook-offs, $1 mystery shots and smoke. I walk in there expecting to reek when I leave and I don’t care. Even the music makes you want to smoke — often a mix of classic rock and soul.
I talked to the bartender that night and he didn’t seem too concerned about business once the ban takes effect July 5. When it comes to smoking, he said matter-of-factly, “It’s not like they will be able do it anywhere else.”
The customers I talked to agreed they will still patronize the bar, but they weren’t happy about the ban. Jamie has been going to the Coin for years. He said bluntly, “I think it sucks. Alcohol and cigarettes go together.” He added, “I feel like I’m in old Russia—a Communist country telling us what to do.”
Jamie is the typical Roman Coin regular. He lives around the block and saddles up to the bar several times a week. He has lived in Milwaukee 55 years and is not looking forward to having to walk outside to light up. He even bought the patch and is trying to quit. He exclaims, “Oh God, I’m not gonna stand out in the cold!”
Another customer says he’ll reluctantly abide the ban. “It’s just a bummer,” he told me, “when you’re in a bar, you’re old enough to decide whether you want to smoke.”
He makes an interesting point. It leads to one of the primary reasons behind the ban — to protect those who don’t get to decide: non-smoking employees and patrons. I’m a non-smoker myself and I used to be a waitress, so I can appreciate that spin. However, I’ll admit that every now and then I like to smoke socially and I’ll miss having that freedom.
Overall, customers don’t seem too concerned about the ban. It’s an inconvenience, but like most things in life, they’ll adapt. One customer even joked about the ban, saying he uses smoking as a coping mechanism.
“If they’re gonna allow karaoke in bars, I need a cigarette!”
The fact of the matter is that smoking is only a small part of what makes a bar. Here in Milwaukee, every corner bar has a unique character and it has nothing to do with nicotine. Jamie puts it best when describing the Roman Coin.
“Everybody knows everybody, everybody’s very friendly and they’re always there for you. And the bartenders are very nice. It’s a neighborhood bar.”