Before the ban: Rapture stubs out smoking, C&O cuts down
"We had made the decision before we heard about the legislation," says co-owner Mike Rodi.
Last August, the restaurant went smoke-free at lunch. "We were losing business," says Rodi. "We'd have maybe one smoking table, and people waiting for non-smoking. And we had a lot of smoke drift."
In January, smoking in the bar and Club R2 was limited to between 11pm and 2am, and on June 15, smoking was fini at Rapture.
The restaurant has a new chef, new items on the menu, and the owners are ready to freshen up the decor, paint and upholstery. It seemed pointless to do that in a smoky environment, says Rodi.
He points out the advantages of going smoke-free, such as clothes smelling better and smaller dry cleaning bills. "Even with smoking employees, it's one thing to take a smoke break and another to be exposed to it for 10 hours," he observes.
And while some regulars groused at the new policy, it also has attracted new customers. "Some people have said to me, 'I haven't been there in years because of that,'" reveals Rodi.
Still, he says he's not abandoning his smoking patrons and wants to establish a small lounge outside the back door on 3rd Street NE so customers can have a cocktail with their smoke.
"I guess I have mixed feeling about it," says Rodi. "But there's a lot to be gained from being nonsmoking, and it's worked fine in all the other places."
C&O owner Dave Simpson is being proactive ahead of the ban as well, but smokers need not worry about getting the bum's rush. Since the downstairs bar qualifies as a separate ventilated room of the Water Street restaurant, Simpson can allow smoking there under the rules of the ban. There is also an outside patio where smoking is allowed. There will be one change in their smoking policy, though: no smoking while the kitchen is open.
"We wanted to acknowledge the ban, and offer people more smoke-free tables " says Simpson, "but we didn't want to totally give up on smokers."