Smoke ’em while you got ’em

Regano’s Roman Coin

By - Jun 22nd, 2010 04:00 am
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photos by Brian Jacobson

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.”

0 thoughts on “Smoke ’em while you got ’em: Regano’s Roman Coin”

  1. Anonymous says:

    “when you’re in a bar, you’re old enough to decide whether you want to smoke.”

    apparently knowledge of the dangers of secondhand smoke hasn’t reached brady street yet. seriously, wisconsin is wayyy late to the game on this one. you might miss the “ambiance”, but you’ll actually be alive longer to miss it, and that counts for something.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Considering how poisonous our air, water and food already is, I think it’s silly to make such a big deal out of indoor smoking. “Knowledge of the dangers of second hand smoke”? If people are willing to accept the dangers of first hand smoke, why would second hand issues come into play? What about the dangers of alcohol consumption? What about the second hand dangers? Where your friend tells you to fuck off and tries to bang your lady? What about the second hand spit that so often sprinkles my face when a drunk person opts to spray it whilst sayin’ it? Drinking is far more destructive both personally and publicly. I’m not for or against the smoking ban, but it is interesting to see how whacked out the priorities and perspectives of people who do care about this thing are. How about a fix for population and obesity issues… mandate smoking everywhere and ban drinking booze and soda.
    Is it unsafe to operate motor vehicles under the influence of second hand smoke inhalation?
    “I can’t kill anybody with a car because I’m smoking a fucking cigarette… and believe me, I’ve tried.” -Bill Hicks

  3. Anonymous says:

    The smoking ban isn’t about the patrons, it is about the danger to the employees of the bar. The patrons can still smoke all they want, they just have to do it at home, outside, or (oddly) at the Casino.

    In five years you’ll look back and be amazed that people were ever allowed to smoke in bars, just like we would find it unusual if someone were smoking in a movie theater, plane, bus, or grocery store (all places where I used to be allowed to smoke).

    Don’t worry Milwaukee, this change isn’t going to kill us. We’ll all be better off because of it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The casino lobby is strong enough to keep the ban off of their establishments, same as in other states.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Anthony Hanratty’s comparisons make little sense: he confuses *potential* effects of alcohol, food, soda, etc., with the *inevitable* effects of smoking on everyone within range of the smoke and its odor. Yes, someone might get drunk and puke on your shoes (“second-hand alcohol”) but they probably won’t. But any person who lights up a cigarette in a public place *always* compels everyone else there to breathe that smoke and have their hair and clothing reek.

    As for his pollution argument: so, if we can’t do everything about everything, we shouldn’t do anything about anything? It’s easy to fix the “second-hand” smoke problem: the new law will mostly do it. If eliminating pollution were as simple, we’d probably have done that.

    (Also: Casinos are exempt, I believe, because they’re run by sovereign Native nations under treaty: Wisconsin can’t really compel them legally.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I can’t help but think that we want to legislate our way into a “better” society. We don’t want winners and losers in little league, we don’t want people eating fast food. Stay away from tanning beds, hell stay out of the sun altogether. If we start telling private establishments what they can or cannot allow, we are also giving up choices. We really just standardized all public places didn’t we? Seems like Red China’s Cultural Revolution , except you can still smoke in restaurants and bars in China.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If secondhand smoke was really a health hazard, it would be banned by the EPA or OSHA, but it’s only the weak-minded politians and others who use it to pose for holy pictures while collecting millions in tax dollars from cigarettes. “Smoke free” Milwaukee or Wisconsin is a laughable misnomer as cigarettes are still a legal product everywhere except for taverns. It should be a free market decisions by individual business and not the heavy hand of government.

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