Should Atlanta’s gay bars go smoke free?

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imageWay back in 2001, Brad Williams had this proposition for Atlanta’s fickle gay nightlife scene: Come to my new club, enjoy an evening of cocktails and dancing and leave without smelling like you spent the night rolling around an ashtray.

Ever the innovative club operator, Williams brought gay Atlanta its first smoke-free nightclub in Red Chair Video Bar & Lounge. And we loved it, filling the Amsterdam Walk club on the weekends for a handful of years until it closed in 2007.

But for some reason, smoke-free never quite caught on among bar owners or patrons, leaving us today with just two places that ban your cigs and cigars: Bellissima, which ironically abuts the former Red Chair, and Mixx Atlanta, which opened earlier this year.

So it’s all the more surprising to see the results of a poll released Monday that says two-thirds of Atlanta voters favor legislation that prohibits smoking in all indoor public places. That means workplaces, restaurants and bars. The poll, from Georgia PIRG Education Fund and the Smoke-Free Atlanta Coalition, also suggests that 95 percent consider secondhand smoke to be at least a minor health hazard.

“Atlantans can travel to cities such as New York City, Washington D.C., or Houston, Texas to experience 100 percent smoke free workplaces, restaurants, and freestanding bars,” Jenna Sasanfar, program associate with Georgia PIRG, says in a press release about the poll. “Atlantans want these same spaces smoke-free here too.”

The poll raises interesting questions for gay bar-goers: Are bar and nightclub owners drastically behind the curve on providing the smoke-free places Atlantans apparently want? Are bar owners hesitant to ban smoking on their own, fearful that patrons will move to a club that allows it? Or do gay nightlife aficionados want their bars full of smoke, unlike Atlanta voters?

The poll also suggests the topic of smoke-free city might surface in the ongoing city elections: 34 percent of voters say they would view city officials or candidates for city office more favorably if they supported an ordinance that banned smoking in indoor public places.

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