It’s Saturday night. A few men and women stand outside on the street holding cigarettes between two fingers, their wrists bent at angles to allow the blue smoke to escape into the night air. Someone walks by and they lower their hands to hip-level. The image has become a familiar one since cigarettes were banned inside drinking establishments and restaurants.
Forced onto the street, smokers will endure rain and icy winds. Anything. You may not be a smoker and think they deserve the discomfort because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking increases the risk for many types of cancer. But there are people who still do smoke and enjoy it and are unrepentant. For them, there are few refuges left where they can sit hunched over the bar with a scotch in one hand, a Winston in another. There are smoking patios for the American Spirit-Parliament crowd.
Bar owners should have been given the option of banning smoking, said a woman working her way through a pack of Marlboro brand cigarettes in one of Oakland’s secret smoking bars, the smoke-easies.
“This is getting to be like a dictatorship.”
I won’t talk about smoke-easies because I treasure them even though I have been clean so long there is no chance of ever going back. But here is a rundown of my favorite sanctioned ones where you can catch a fleeting glimpse of something before it becomes extinct: smoking and drinking at the same time.
Now, can you already visualize the stack of mail from anti-smoking crusaders I am going to get?
- Easy Lounge, 3255 Lakeshore Ave.Smoking and drinking “go hand-in-hand” said two blondes puffing Marlboro Lights on the patio of Easy Lounge. (The patio is off-limits after midnight for the sake of neighbors.) “It’s a bad habit, but we like the option,” said Jennifer Norris, who smokes infrequently. “I’m a binge smoker,” she said.”But when she does smoke she can drink,” added her companion, Sunday Hauser, a pack-a-day smoker from cigarette-intolerant Los Angeles.
- Heart and Dagger Saloon, 504 Lake Park Ave.”I’m a cigarette addict, a tabaccoholic,” said Otto Von Danger in between puffing Camels at the Heart and Dagger Saloon. “I like the freedom of it “… the visceral freedom,” said fellow smoker David “Spyral” Carr. “That’s why I like Nevada.” The two, dressed in cowboy hats, T-shirts and black jackets, were seated at a picnic table on the patio Wednesday night sipping beer during a social gathering of the Burning Man Department of Public Works. “Especially my generation and beyond grew up when smoking in bars was normal. And if you didn’t smoke you learned how,” Von Danger said.
- The Grand Tavern, 3601 Grand Ave.The front patio is “smoker-friendly,” said owner and operator Temoor Noor. While he does not promote smoking, he said, “It’s totally fine.”
- The Uptown, 1928 Telegraph Ave.Larry Trujillo runs a tight ship. And that includes a smoking patio filled by music fans during sets of bands like the Buzzcocks and The Dandelion War and you name it. The place has some of the strongest mai tai’s to go with the smokes.
- Bench and Bar, 510 17th St.The enclosed smoking chamber between a dance floor and lounge will make you feel a little like you’re at Studio 54 in 1979: The disco vibe comes with bowl-shaped ashtrays atop glittery tabletops, a cigarette vending machine and a TV.
- Café Van Kleef, 1621 Telegraph Ave.Long a bastion of greyhound cocktails and irreverent décor, Café Van Kleef allows smoking on a patio facing Telegraph Avenue. That isn’t the reason one man said he comes to the bar but “it would make it more likely.” He moved to Oakland recently from Portland, Ore., where indoor smoking was banned in 2009. A few years ago, Colorado, where he lived before Portland, also banned smoking inside, posing a dilemma for cold-climate smokers.
- McNally’s Irish Pub, 5352 College Ave.This one-time speak-easy still allows you to light up on the patio. So grab your pint and head out the backdoor. Could an Irish pub like McNally’s, with photos of famous Irish-American smokers on the walls, behave any other way?
- The Pub, 1492 Solano Ave., Albany.Farther afield is this pub and smoke shop where tobacco of all kinds is honored. Order a pint and a Scrabble set and sink into a wing-backed arm chair. Or take your Guinness to the porch and light up an American Spirit. The Pub is popular among the roll-your-own crowd and middle-aged denizens who gather to debate politics. Forget about Wi-Fi.
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