Despite ban, Wilson Boulevard is still smoking
At Whitlow's on Wilson last night, it seemed like any other Thursday -- a band played on the stage in the restaurant, patrons carried around large plastic mugs of beer that they could refill for $1.50, and friends played pool and hung out at the bar, cigarettes in hand.
Wait, wasn't smoking banned in Virginia as of Dec. 1? Well, yes and no.
For most bars and restaurants, smoking is now limited to outdoor areas. But the law allows smoking indoors if there's a walled-off and separately ventilated space.
Whitlow's was able to take advantage of this rule because the large room known as the Sandbar -- the games room with pool tables and a large patio -- was a separate, adjoining building until 10 years ago, when Whitlow's purchased it, explains assistant general manager Nadim Kouttab. At that time, managers added some doors between the buildings and installed a bar. Now, they're keeping the doors closed between the original Whitlow's, which is smoke-free, and the Sandbar. "It has its own pre-existing ventilation system," Kouttab says. "When the law was passed, we went over the logistics with a fine-tooth comb and realized we were one of the few establishments that could do this."
Ruling out smoking altogether, he says, "was never really an option."
Other Arlington bars are also trying hard to accommodate smokers. The Clarendon Grill, which voluntarily banned smoking last year, has one of the most elaborate setups: a temporary roof over its large back patio and bar. Rows of heat lamps hang from the ceiling to keep things toasty.
I checked out nightspots along Wilson Boulevard from Rosslyn to Ballston to see if they're doing anything special for smokers, and it's a mixed bag. At Ragtime, a lone heater and cigarette-butt receptacle stood on the sidewalk by the front door. The Front Page has a few heaters on its patio. Galaxy Hut covered its narrow side patio with awnings, but the space isn't heated. Velocity Five installed two tall plastic ashtrays on its huge covered patio. (And conveniently, there's a TV so smokers don't have to miss the game.) But at Eventide, the roof deck is completely closed until April.
There could be good news coming from Gua-Rapo, which may be able to allow hookah smoking at its upstairs bar again once some construction work is done, but there's no timetable for that yet.
Know of any other bars with good setups for smokers? Add your comments or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Fritz Hahn
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