Laura Heller
Smoke ’em while you got ’em

My Office

By - Jun 24th, 2010 04:00 am
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Photos by Nicole Braunsdorf

My Office has been a staple of the downtown Milwaukee bar scene for over 30 years. Its well-seasoned decor is almost as impressive as its regular customers, who have been coming as long as the bar has been open.

The place exudes charm through the the 3-D Spider man poster hanging above the door. The neon beer signs and liquor engraved mirrors. The worn leather on the elbow bench. The library nook in the pool room. The mainstream digital jukebox. The carpet marinated in cigarette burns and spilled drinks.

All of these elements put together provide the safe go-to haven that My Office has become for its customers.

Smoking has always been an available and mostly favorable option for the tavern’s customers. But after July 5, along with every other bar in Milwaukee, My Office will shut its doors on smoking. Naturally, there are different opinions and concerns among the patrons and employees. What is to come of the bar that has played host to so many after work drinks and cigarette breaks?

I talked to some of of the crew and they provided their personal insight into the smoke-free future.

The bar was owned by the same family for 32 years and Brian Petersen has been the owner for about the last ten. His outlook on the smoking ban is  “if everyone has to do it, well then we’re all in the same boat.” He says that he’s personally looking forward to the ban since he is a non-smoker.

Petersen has plans to give the bar a light makeover post-smoking ban, like new flooring and carpeting. Also, due to lack of ashes and smoke residue, he is looking forward to the lowered maintenance of cleaning the bar. The ban will allow My Office to deliver a more polished atmosphere to its customers.

Warren Johnston, a bartender, feels that the ban will hinder the amount of time that customers stay in the bar. Why would some people drink all night in a tavern when they can drink at home with the comfort of smoking? He’s concerned that income, both for the bar and its employees, may be reduced until everyone gets adjusted (smoking won’t even be an option at My Office’s outdoor window ledge during the summer).

Employees and customers are going to have to adapt. Johnston and other employees will no longer be allowed to smoke behind the bar — those smoke breaks for bartenders will now have to exist beyond the doors of their workplace.

Kevin Dandre, a regular at My Office for several years, feels that smoking consumers will get used to the ban and stay loyal to their regular bar. However, he admits that he will most likely go to an outdoor patio to satiate his habit. The patio will serve as an interim accommodation for smokers until the summer months come to a close. Then, he believes customers are most likely to retreat to their regular watering holes.

Interestingly enough, Dandre mentioned the irony of the ban taking action the day after Independence Day.

Those who occupy both sides of the bar at My Office are concerned about the smoking ban’s initial effect, but they maintain a bright outlook. Patio bars will gain most of the tavern’s lost business throughout the warmer months. But for now, smoking consumers and bars are forced to roll with the punches of this bruising.

Nothing can be confirmed, but only anticipated.

My Office will continue to rely on the loyalty of its regulars and authentic charm to keep its doors open for another 30 years.

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