It's Thursday, Dec. 8—brewer's night at West Seattle's Beveridge Place Pub. I sample some Harmon's Point Defiance IPA from the cask, hop aromas drifting noseward. Others are marveling over Harmon's Vanilla Porter, rich and aromatic. It's a good night for tasting something new, because thanks to I-901, Beveridge Place is now completely smoke-free. In the back room, I see, where smoking used to be allowed, people are still attracted to the pool tables and game machines. Overall, the changeover is pretty uneventful.
Friday night, we park ourselves at the bar in the Collins Pub, on Second Avenue. Here, too, an aromatic IPA comes bursting with hops, and here, too, there is no smoke to interfere with the space between beer and nose. Dinner is ordered, and owner Seth Howard, himself a nonsmoker, surveys the scene. Seats are filled at the bar and along the wall; more folks fill the tables at the back. Two women at the bar ask me to watch their stuff while they step out for a smoke.
On we go, to the Duck Island Saloon on Aurora Avenue North, right next to Beth's. A dozen or so folks hang out, enjoying beer and conversation. The Duck, with its well-chosen tap selection, was one of the most smoker-friendly bars in town. Now, we sip something deliciously malty, and savor it, malt in the nose and on the tongue, no smoke in the way.
I have yet to check out some other newly smoke-free venues, but will: Prost! and Die Bierstube, the People's Pub, the Reading Gaol, and many other beery venues are now as those that led the way: the Jolly Roger, Hale's pub, the Barking Dog, the Pyramid Alehouse, Ballard's Old Town Alehouse, and Capitol Hill's Stumbling Monk, where owner Rob Linehan took a big chance, going nonsmoking in a part of town where smoking in a bar was once practically considered a birthright.
In California, a bar owner can (theoretically) choose to allow smoking if he's the only one staffing the joint. Washington has no such loophole, and smokers either are out in the cold, or—and this will happen—some will simply quit. Nonsmokers now have an embarrassment of choices, and we can't raise that excuse for skipping a chance to visit a venue with great beer on tap any more. It's a good time to seek out those multitap places where tobacco once ruled the air. The law has created a level, smoke-free playing field for every restaurant, bar, and tavern in the state, and there's really no excuse not to go out and enjoy a good local craft brew or import, whether your favorite place was always nonsmoking or had nonsmoking imposed. Cigarettes may be banned, but you can still look for an Alaskan Smoked Porter or a Schlenkerla Rauchbier on tap.