Upcoming Smoking Ban Means It's Time to Retire My Smitty’s Clothes
After 23 years of smoke, popular Chesterfield bar and restaurant is about to pick up the ashtrays.
At least once a week, my wife and I walk into Smitty's for dinner or lunch. My wife's cousin refers to Smitty's as an "Air Conditioned Tavern" in tribute to the 1960s south side St. Louis corner tavern that had "Air Conditioned" stenciled on the window just below a neon beer sign.
Smitty's, hidden in the corner of Baxter Bend shopping center on Clayton Road just east of Baxter, immediately looks and smells like that old corner tavern. One half of the joint is a bar and the other half has tables for food service. There is often plenty of cigarette smoke, and on bad nights, cigar smoke.
One night, I was eating dinner when a couple who were new to the place sat at a table and asked the waitress where the no smoking area was. The waitress reached over, removed the ashtray from the table, and said "You're sitting in it."
The one big difference with Smitty's and your usual neighborhood tavern is the food at Smitty's isn't good; it is fantastic. Comfort food at very reasonable prices. They feature regular and rotating blue plate specials, The most popular is fried chicken on Wednesday nights. It is so in demand there often is an hour wait for a table.
The conflict arises when the amount of tobacco smoke in the air trumps one's desire for a good plate of food featuring homemade mashed potatoes, milk gravy and maybe one of the best Caesar salads in West County.
My wife and I go every Thursday evening for either the chicken fried steak or the beef brisket. We wear our Smitty's clothes, which are easy to strip off and throw into the washer as soon as we return home. If you walk well into your house, the aroma from your clothes can make it suddenly smell like a chain smoker had been there for a week.
So what effect will the Jan.1 countywide smoking ban have on Smitty's? Smitty is not the type of who hangs out at the bar shooting the breeze with the customers; he is back in the small kitchen working. I talked to two of his employees.
"I think it will be busier after January 1," bartender Christine Grgic said. "So many people who want to come and eat call and ask if we are still allowing smoking. They will all be here after the first of the year.
"I think our smoking customers will go outside and eventually there will be a deck on the side of the building for them. It is fair since it covers the whole county. It is not like someone can go down the street and light up."
Nancy Seaman, a smoker who works as a weeknight waitress and a Saturday bartender, sees good and bad times ahead.
"It will improve our dinner business. Some people will not come in now when the place reeks of smoke," Seaman said. "There are three guys that will come in and light up cigars, forcing people to leave. But I think it will kill our bar business, especially on music nights with bands."
Here is what I know: 2011 means no more wearing old clothes and heading to the washing machine after getting home from dinner on Thursdays. For this I thank the St. Louis County Council. It is something that the Chesterfield City Council should have done a long time ago when city councils and alderpersons of Kirkwood, Ballwin, Arnold and Clayton had the guts to do the right thing.