Many students returning to the University of North Texas in Denton this fall were surprised to find some of their favorite bars along Fry Street adorned with "No Smoking" signs — but their owners think their new policy could herald a broader smoking ban to come.
Lucky Lou’s, Riprocks Bar and Grill and Cool Beans collectively made the move in August to go smoke-free indoors.
"We decided together,” said Riprocks' general manager Blake Jutton. “It was just: 'The curve is coming. We're going to get ahead of the curve.'"
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Denton banned smoking in restaurants and other indoor establishments in April 2013, amid a wave of new smoking bans nationwide. The ban has been an overall success, and all businesses have complied with it, according to Denton's intergovernmental relations manager Lindsey Baker.
But the city's ban doesn't apply to bars. Patrons are free to smoke in any bars limited to people aged 18 and up or operating as private clubs.
Neither Jutton nor Lucky Lou's owner Lou Delaney expects that exemption to last.
"Eventually it's going to go statewide, and likely the city's going to be doing it soon, anyway,” Delaney said.
That’s just a forecast on his part, but movement could be on the way.
Denton's city council will revisit its smoking ordinance in early December to discuss issues like rules on e-cigarettes, and it's likely that the issue of smoking in bars will be raised again, Baker said.
Also likely to be raised is the issue of smoking on bars' patios, an issue also raised during the smoking ordinance's creation.
The trio of Fry Street bars banning smoking are still allowing smoking on their outdoor patios and said that other bars along their stretch didn't join them in banning smoking because they don't have patios where smokers can smoke.
The Fry Street trio isn't alone in banning smoking recently, though. A handful of other bars throughout the city have also gone smoke-free voluntarily recently, Baker said, including the Rockin’ Rodeo nightclub near the UNT campus.
Delaney and Jutton said their bars have seen a positive response from the move, and they hope it continues.
"Our nonsmoking customers love it, and surprisingly, our smoking customers are quite fond of it, too, saying they seem to smoke less while they're here and save money,” said Delaney.
"At first we had a couple of customers come up and say, 'We want to be able to smoke in here,'" Jutton said, "but it's 15 feet to the next possible patio area."
Many other smokers on Fry Street said they weren’t crazy about the onsmoking rule, but as long as the patio was still an option, they could work with it.
"It's not that bad. It's just frustrating sometimes,” said Adam Moseley of Denton.