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Kansas City's Smokiest Bars

With a pathetic turnout of roughly ten percent of Kansas City's population, the voters that bothered to vote decided with 51% of the vote to ban smoking in Kansas City's bars and restaurants, but not Kansas City's casinos or outdoor stadiums. I was part of the 49% that voted against it, as I think smoking bans are part of a dangerous trend away from freedom, and an ignorantly accepted part of the wildly popular habit that Americans have for trading their freedom for quality of life.

That said, I think we're going to see a couple of bars disappear within the next year or two. I have prepared a list of the ones I like.

  1. Chez Charlie's It's not often that I love a bar that has nothing on tap, but Chez Charlie's makes the cut. I can't often go though, because most of my friends aren't tolerant enough of smoke to brave it. It is easily the smokiest bar that I have seen in Kansas City. From what I've seen when I've been there, the smokiness is a big reason why many of the people like to go there. I could take or leave the smoke, but I think with the ban in place, they'll be hurting for customers.
  2. Dave's Stagecoach Inn Ah, Dave's. A welcome retreat from the douchebaggery and ambitious pricing of the main part of Westport, only a block away. The beer is on tap, fresh, and cheap. The tiny space guarantees that unless you're there to stand in a circle, you're going to have to move on. They used to sell t-shirts that said something to the tune of, "Dave's: Your first stop after parole."
  3. Fitz's Blarney Stone Fitz's is like Dave's, but without the crowd, and with more available seating. There's always an imbalance between the actual setting of the hair-blowing throat-drying HVAC system and the level at which comfort may be reached. But like so many dive bars, the staff and regulars couldn't be happier to see you. Some have complained that they won't go because it's in a terrifying neighborhood, but I don't buy it.
  4. The Peanut on Main Easily the smallest seating area of any bar in Kansas City. I don't know how they get drinks and food served there, honestly. There's an ancient payphone on the wall with a taped-on sign that warns you not to use it, but that rings on occasion, causing a desperate but humorous gait by one of the staff to answer it. The Pale Ale is cheap and comes in pitchers so you'll leave the bartender the hell alone.
  5. Gilhouly's It wasn't until some of my friends moved to the West 39th area that I ever really gave this place a serious try. But man, it is a great bar. I rang in 2008 here. The booths are disgusting, and there are various articles of debris crammed into the wall's many fissures and gaps, and the smoke will make you wish you didn't have eyes, but I always have a good time at Gilhouly's. The music is great, the service is fast and attentive, and I always run into someone I haven't seen in years. That's odd too, considering I have only lived in KC for seven.
  6. Harling's This gigantic bar somehow still manages to have a visible cloud of smoke from about four feet off the floor all the way up to its 20-foot ceilings by about 9pm on any night that it's reasonably busy. The beer is on tap, cheap, and delicious. The men's room smells more like urine than urine, which stands to reason because flushing the handleless urinal is a pretty drawn-out and painful process. The bartender can often be found playing the Ms Pacman table instead of pouring drinks, and you'd better make sure to bring cash, unless you want to pay their shady ATM fee. The clientele is a mix of bohemian hotties, UMKC/KCAI no-budget students, lifers, and a very light load of urban professionals.

All of these great bars are now at serious risk, and there's really not much that can be done about it. None of them are in places where a patio is both desirable and feasible, though of all these, I think Harling's probably has the best chance of making it, seeing as they have a back porch where customers can take their beer and smoke.

We'll see how it all plays out.

1:00 PM, Apr 9, 2008

11 comments

Brad had this to say:

"...as I think smoking bans are part of a dangerous trend away from freedom, and an ignorantly accepted part of the wildly popular habit that Americans have for trading their freedom for quality of life."

I agree with that statement, but now that the ban has passed, I don't see what the big deal is with walking 10 steps outside and smoking til one's heart is content. People are still free to smoke at any time, just not any where.

If your business is dependent upon smoke floating in the air, then I suggest you find a new business...or rent a fog machine.

4:16 PM, Apr 9, 2008

ck took the time to say:

Fantastic use of "douchebaggery"

5:45 PM, Apr 9, 2008

chris replied:

i bet at least 3 of the bars on that list will let patrons smoke anyway, and the city will not know or care. that said, i really can't imagine people can't just go outside. columbia and lawrence have had smoking bans for a while, and as far as i know none of the divey/smokey bars have gone under - and i'm not talking about places that are packed with students. people will adjust the same way they adjusted when they could no longer smoke in offices, government buildings, courthouses, hospitals, airplanes, airports, schools, etc. - or, more presciently, the way they have adjusted in places like california and new york and paris, where you can no longer smoke in bars and restaurants. they either go outside, or they find the places that ignore the ban.

i also think this issue has absolutely nothing to do with freedom, and i am a freedom-loving kind of guy.

8:07 PM, Apr 9, 2008

Gulia offered:

I don't agree with your stance on why keep it legal. You really put down quality of life - why is that? I don't have any problem with people's right to smoke, but why do i have to go home smelling and have a scratchy throat the whole next day because of it. My quality of life is just as important.

Also, with regard to the bars closing...i doubt it. The bars here in Mass just ask people to step outside, it doesn't appear to be a big deal. Sure, if they had a roofdeck or outside seating it would be ideal, but most don't, and as far as i can tell, smokers still patronize establishments.

10:48 AM, Apr 10, 2008

bahua was sure you'd want to know:

"but why do i have to go home smelling and have a scratchy throat the whole next day because of it. My quality of life is just as important."

You don't have to go home smelling like smoke. Who says you have to go to a smoky bar? What requirement is there for you to go? Smoke is not some hidden danger. It's obvious, right in front of you, and easily avoidable.

11:20 AM, Apr 10, 2008

chicus spoiled the calm with:

What choice to the employees of said bars have?

This argument always gets turned back to the patrons of a bar but we have banned smoking in pretty much every other workplace. Why are the workers of bars exempt from working in a smoke-free environment?

I don't disagree with the civil liberties aspect but I think a much more dangerous trend is banning trans-fats in cities, which mine has done. In that case, truly ANYONE can choose whether or not to partake in the "bad" deed.

10:28 PM, Apr 10, 2008

bahua wants you to know:

Nobody has to work in a smoky bar either. Nobody's arm is getting twisted in any case. With no smoking ban. there are already dozens of smoke-free bars in Kansas City, employing a couple thousand people. Like any other bar, they all have ridiculous employee turnover rates, so I fail to see how anybody that doesn't want to work in a cloud of smoke is being forced to do so in Kansas City. Just like customers, employees of smoky bars are choosing to place themselves in smoke. They aren't being chained to the floor.

The trans-fat bans are currently the cutting edge of idiocy, in my opinion.

9:44 AM, Apr 11, 2008

cmh spoiled the calm with:

banning/regulating a noxious pollutant in the workplace, regardless of its source, is a perfectly acceptable exercise of regulation. pollution control is one area where outside regulation (i.e. the govt) is superior to "free market" (cough cough) approaches, since there is no market for "public health and good."

why is it so troubling when the workplace being regulated is a bar or restaurant but it is (presumably) not troubling in other workplaces and places of public accommodation - city transit, offices, airplanes, hospitals, courthouses, other govt buildings, etc? is it because there is a cultural "preference" by smokers and libertarians that the govt cannot invade where we choose to spend our public leisure time? why should those preferences be given precedence over the preferences/concerns regarding workplace pollution?

12:26 PM, Apr 11, 2008

Cole chimed in with:

Despicable hippies. "Workplace pollution" You have a choice not to work in a coal mine either. More importantly, do the preferences of non-smokers outweigh the right of smokers to not get frostbite? Winters can be cold and windy and just plain awful. I'd rather have a face full of smoke than tell somebody to go outside in the snow or rain. Both sides can not be dicks about it.

3:07 AM, Apr 12, 2008

Brad blurted:

I have yet to meet a smoker that has acquired frostbite from being outside for 5 minutes.

1:47 PM, Apr 12, 2008

Brian responded:

The civil libertarian in me doesn't have any problem when local government regulates the use of dangerous substances, especially in reasonably public areas. For example, governments regulate how and into what you can pump gasoline. I find that pretty reasonable, from a public safety standpoint.

Governments also regulate the presence of asbestos in public and private places, because it has been determined to be a public health hazard. Do you question whether laws prohibiting asbestos to be hanging from the ceiling of a pub are a good idea? I think a big part of the question here is whether second-hand smoke is a public health hazard. The prevailing research is that it is a hazard, but I'll concede that it's not as firmly established as the case against asbestos. Still, there's not much serious contention on the issue.

If that's the case, it's not a matter of people's choice to work among smoke. It's a public health hazard and no one should have to put up with it.

Also, the coal miner comparison is pretty flawed in my opinion. Ask a coal miner if that's their preferred career (with the risks of gas leaks, fires, collapses, etc.), and you'll probably find out that they'd rather be doing lots of other things. Unfortunately, people don't have complete freedom in their choice of jobs, and people like bartenders and servers can't always pick and choose their job either.

Second-hand smoke in the workplace has been pretty well established to be an unreasonable danger. No one should have to deal with it at all. That's why these laws are being passed all around the country.

11:33 AM, Apr 14, 2008

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