Going Smoke Free Is Easy as ABC

Arbor Brewing Company to go smoke free on Aug. 3
aerial view of sidewalk in front of Arbor Brewing Company

View from the top of the Washington & Fourth parking structure of the sidewalk seating in front of Arbor Brewing Company. The cars parked in an angled pattern were part of the July 10 Rolling Sculpture Car show. (Photo by Dave Askins, who braved a fear of heights to deliver the image to readers.)

Arbor Brewing Company has announced that on Aug. 3 their establishment will become smoke-free.

In an email message sent to customers, Rene Greff – co-owner of the pub with her husband Matt – characterized the move as a “scary decision,” because it’s not clear what the impact will be on business.

Greff made clear that ABC had hoped the state of Michigan would take action to ban smoking for all restaurants – that would lessen the potential competitive disadvantage faced by ABC. Washtenaw County banned smoking in public buildings and workplaces, but restaurants and bars are exempt. In the state legislature, the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-led Senate haven’t been able to agree on a smoking ban, so it’s up to individual business owners to set their own rules.

“I’d really like to see our government in Michigan do something about it,” said Chris Pawlicki, co-owner of the Old Town Tavern on West Liberty. The restaurant hasn’t gone smoke-free, but Pawlicki says he thinks about it “every day.”

“I see both sides,” he said, adding that “my fear is that the smokers will go somewhere else (if we go smoke-free). In a two block radius, they can probably go to two or three other places.”

A few other local restaurants and bars have made the change. Casey’s Tavern on Depot Street went smoke-free in early 2006. Manager Paul Thomas said that initially, they sold less alcohol and more food after the change, making it less of a bar and more of a restaurant. “It made us more of a family-oriented business once we went smoke-free,” he said. “We saw a lot more families and kids. Families are looking for that kind of environment when they go out to eat.”

Thomas said that health benefits are a plus. “I don’t miss the secondhand smoke or cleaning 50 ash trays a night. You also think about the health benefits for your employees.”

The health of employees was among the reasons Greff cited for going smoke-free. ABC had three of their staff work through pregnancies, with a fourth due at the end of July. In her email, Greff also said that smoke interfered with patrons’ ability to appreciate the aroma and flavor of fresh beer and food.

The Chronicle spoke with Rene Greff by phone about their decision, which was discussed at a staff meeting earlier this month.

Why Aug. 3? Although it falls the day before primary elections, Greff said that had nothing to do with the timing decision. They’d wanted to implement the policy at the beginning of the next month and they like to start things on Mondays.

How will ABC tell customers? In addition to the emailed announcement, plus posting on Facebook and Twitter, they’ll use “table tents” inside the pub itself. The language for those signs will emphasize the positive, Greff said. Something like, “We’re please to announce … ” Smokers will also be addressed in the message, said Greff. So expect to see something along the lines of, “We value all our customers …”

What about accommodations for smokers? Greff said that smoking would continue to be allowed in the sidewalk seating area outside the pub. When that outdoor area closes for the season, the intent is to provide an outdoor, chained-off area adjoining the entrance off the game room. It’s a place for patrons to step outside and smoke a cigarette, with their beer in hand. The area would need to adjoin the building, because by law you can’t carry a beer across the sidewalk to a separate area.

Aren’t smokers good customers? Smokers are good customers, Greff allowed. In fact, many of them are restaurant industry folks, who tend to tip better than average. So smokers as a group are considered to be pretty good tippers, which is why ABC wants to try to accommodate them somewhat.

What if people hate it? Greff said she figured she’d hear from her managers if there were problems with the implementation of a smoke-free environment. The plan is to remain open to feedback and input on ways to tweak the implementation, if people had ideas on how to do that, she said.

Alex Nicola-Iott, an intern with The Chronicle,  and Dave Askins, editor of The Chronicle, contributed to this report.

Section: Business

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  1. By Kris
    July 16, 2009 at 10:13 pm | permalink

    Awesome! I think this will only boost business (see what it did for Casey’s.

  2. By John Weise
    July 16, 2009 at 11:23 pm | permalink

    I think it is great that they are going smoke free. It’s bound to bring me in more often.

  3. By Jay Barth
    July 17, 2009 at 7:22 am | permalink

    Thank You Rene and Matt! Now we can enjoy the states best IPA without worrying about smelling cigarettes!!

  4. By Jay Barth
    July 17, 2009 at 7:25 am | permalink

    A note to Chris Pawlicki…you can add us to a long list of folks who love the Old Town, but avoid it because of the smoke….

  5. By Dave
    July 17, 2009 at 7:48 am | permalink

    I’d echo the comments above. I will make a point of patronizing ABC more often after August 3. And I haven’t been to the Old Town in several years because it’s so smoky.

  6. July 17, 2009 at 8:20 am | permalink

    It’s about damn time. Thank you so, so very much.

    Is it too much to hope that Ashley’s will follow suit…?

  7. By a2eastsider
    July 17, 2009 at 8:42 am | permalink

    Thank you Arbor Brewing. I hope that more places follow. Thanks also to Red Hawk who has been smoke free for many years. It would be great if Ashley’s followed suit. When I was speaking to the bar tender at Casey’s a while ago, he said that they had actually taken a financial hit due going smoke free. So let’s get out there and support our local smoke free establishments! Thanks again!

  8. By Susan
    July 17, 2009 at 8:53 am | permalink

    Renee – Most excellent! Had out of state guests earlier in the summer who were astounded to learn that Michigan (much less Ann Arbor) allowed smoking in restaurants. Worth noting that they were from a major tobacco producing state.

  9. By Bob
    July 17, 2009 at 8:55 am | permalink

    This is great to see so many businesses going smoke free and getting free advertising. This is proof positive that oppresive ban laws are totally unecessary.

  10. By Ryan
    July 17, 2009 at 9:55 am | permalink

    Thank you! I hope others follow.

  11. By Brad Thompson
    July 17, 2009 at 9:56 am | permalink

    It’s disappointing that the MI legislature can’t get proper legislation put together to have smoke free bars and restaurants. They get close but the Detroit delegation caves in because of casino pressure and blocks the legislation.

    I think that it falls on all of us to support those establishments that make the choice to go non-smoking and as Thayrone always says, tip the help generously, they deserve it.

  12. By Kana
    July 17, 2009 at 10:35 am | permalink

    This is great! Add us to the list of clients who will go there more frequently and don’t go to other places because the smoke stench is overwhelming.

  13. By Barbara
    July 17, 2009 at 12:57 pm | permalink

    Such a great idea! I am so glad that the short list of restaurants my husband and I can patronize is growing. Thank you Arbor Brewing Company.

  14. By Mark
    July 17, 2009 at 1:16 pm | permalink

    That’s one of the reasons I like the Corner Brewery in Ypsi, (owned by ABC). No smoke = more visits.

  15. By Milo
    July 17, 2009 at 5:40 pm | permalink

    Woo Hoo!!!!

  16. By Bob
    July 18, 2009 at 9:22 am | permalink

    Don”t think that just passing a ban will get rid of those lobbyists. Once they find gullible lawmakers and get a foot in the door, they’ll be back for the patios later, AFTER business owners spend thousands of dollars to build them for their smoking patrons.. This is a quote from page seven of the ban lobbyists instruction book.

    “Tobacco control advocates should work ‘from the inside out.’
    Prior to addressing
    outdoor restrictions, communities should first have effective smokefree laws for indoor
    environments. Because people are exposed to higher levels of secondhand smoke in
    indoor settings than in outdoor ones, it makes sense from a public health perspective to
    protect nonsmokers indoors before seeking outdoor air laws.
    There is emerging science on the health hazards of outdoor exposure to secondhand smoke”

    If they had ANY consideration for local businesses, they would do the patio ban upfront, or at least let people know that that patio bans are coming up BEFORE they spend thousands of dollars to accommodate their smoking customers.These traveling lobbyists have ABSOLUTLY NO concern about local business owners. Here’s their instruction book. See page seven.

    link to PDF file

  17. By Jessica Rodriguez
    July 18, 2009 at 9:48 am | permalink


    Although I have lots of friends who are smokers, my hope is that by creating more non-smoking environments, we have a place to gather where EVERYONE feels welcome and doesn’t have to worry about air quality. I love ABC and will only continue to support its efforts.

  18. By Brendan
    July 18, 2009 at 9:53 am | permalink

    As a heavy smoker, and heavy drinker, I have no problem with this.

    I have no issue with a business wanting to go smoke free and find it a far better alternative then the state forcing it on all restaurants and bars regardless of what the owner wants.

    What I would like to see with a state enforced smoking ban would be something along the lines of what they do in Florida. If all you serve is booze, and your customers are 18 or 21 and over, allow smoking. If we had that law the only places in Ann Arbor that I know of where you could smoke would be the 8 Ball Saloon and The Alley Bar. Both of these places families don’t go.

  19. July 18, 2009 at 10:53 am | permalink

    Actually, though protecting families with children is important, the aim is to protect everyone from the effects of second-hand smoke, including those who work in bars and restaurants. The Board of Commissioners passed a significant regulation titled The Washtenaw County Clean Indoor Air Regulation in 2002. The BOC also separately prohibited smoking by entryways of county facilities. The only reason that the BOC’s regulation excluded bars and restaurants was that because state law already called for non-smoking sections in those establishments, state law pre-empted county regulation for that case. I hope that the state law change makes it through this time.

    I’m surprised it took ABC so long to reach this point. If you had asked me offhand, I’d have predicted that they had done it already, as many places have.

  20. By Mark
    July 18, 2009 at 3:57 pm | permalink

    Part of the reason the state ban has not passed yet is advocates here have taken a harder line than those in other states — they want cigar bars and even tobacco shops included. Almost all states exempt tobacco shops (If it’s called a “smoke shop,” do you really expect nonsmokers to work there?) and many exempt cigar bars as well.

    But advocates here are happy to put them out of business. What’s another empty storefront, right?

  21. By Bob
    July 19, 2009 at 10:15 am | permalink

    It’s not THEIR money. They just get their bans, and move on.
    link to pdf file

  22. By T-Bone
    July 20, 2009 at 9:27 am | permalink

    This is long overdue and is most exciting! I love ABC, the dartboards, shuffleboard, and beer. I have to be honest though, I sometimes avoided ABC because the smell and thickness of smoke was so bad. This is a great decision.

  23. By Bob
    July 20, 2009 at 11:39 am | permalink

    Will the bars be getting high chairs and taking the “naughty” adult songs off the jukebox? They’ll probably have to install baby changing tables under the vending machines in the washrooms. Now that a “shot and beer” bar is “public property”, the owner can no longer deny entry to ANYONE.

  24. By glane
    July 20, 2009 at 1:59 pm | permalink

    goodbye abc. except for this, thanks for everything.

  25. By Bob
    July 20, 2009 at 9:25 pm | permalink

    Would a bar putting up a big “SMOKERS WELCOME” sign get this kind of free advertising?

  26. By Ross
    July 21, 2009 at 11:28 am | permalink

    Yes! Now I can play darts and shuffle board again!

    This is so great.

  27. By Kristen Cuhran
    July 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm | permalink

    This is so fantastic!!! Now I can go “out” again at night!

  28. By Bob
    July 21, 2009 at 5:56 pm | permalink

    Here’s the mentality of the “tobacco control” activist: link to Daily Mail Online article out of the UK

  29. By Jack
    July 31, 2009 at 10:48 pm | permalink

    Awesome – I was actually in ABC last December and left before ordering because the smoke was so bad. I’ve been making a point of trying to give my money to businesses that don’t allow smoking – i.e, Caseys, Hillers (they recently stopped selling tobacco) and now ABC. I will definitely be in some evening this summer.