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Sunday, July 18, 2004

New club makes case for smoke-free zone



The Cincinnati Enquirer

UpStarCrow opened last month in Newport as a new jazz and blues restaurant that's smoke-free. Managing controller Mike Ringering was asked to explain the rationale in a state with the nation's highest smoking rate.

Q: Why did UpStarCrow open smoke-free?

A: The owner, Steve Taylor, doesn't smoke. He wanted to create a unique environment for a restaurant where you can enjoy great food and live music anywhere in the building, including at the bar, without being disrupted by tobacco smoke. We want your entire stay to be pleasant. Smoke has to affect the quality of the food and affect nonsmokers.

Q: Was employees' health another reason?

A: Sure. A lot of our people interviewed here because it's smoke-free. They were thrilled they could work at a place that combined food service and live jazz and blues in a non-traditional smoke-free setting.

Q: Did Taylor worry it could put the restaurant at a competitive disadvantage in a tobacco state?

A: He had the smoke-free policy in mind from day one, and never wavered, even when people told him he was making a mistake. Even some smokers have told us they like coming into a room that isn't smoke-filled. California and New York have gone smoke-free. Lexington is completely smoke-free. The Applebee's chain just went smoke-free. It's the wave of the future.

Q: Would a smoke-free ordinance in Cincinnati help or hurt you in Newport?

A: It's inconsequential to our success. We set out to be a smoke-free restaurant with live music and without a cover charge. That's a niche that wasn't filled at present. You can go to very few bars where smoke isn't leaking toward you. We're not a bar. We are not trying to compete with bars. We didn't get into this to change public policy or to make a social statement.

Q: How have jazz and blues performers reacted?

A: We got great talent calling us all the time to perform here. If performers need to smoke when playing, there are a billion other clubs they can go to. Most equate jazz and blues with a white, smoky haze. But it's a different time today.

Q: Any trouble with people lighting up anyway?

A: We promote the smoke-free policy in our advertising. It's on the menus and on a little sign on the door. If someone lights up, we explain this is a nonsmoking restaurant, and that's the end of it.




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