Lunaya Pravda

31 May 2006

Vive le Resistance!

Smokers find refuge in secret nicotine dens

Almost six months after the nation's toughest statewide smoking ban went into effect in Washington, smoke has virtually disappeared from all bars and restaurants in Seattle.

But in places reminiscent of speakeasies from the Prohibition days, smokers are still finding opportunities to take a drag in between sips of their favorite libations.

Smokers say the locations of smoke-easies are spread by word of mouth and usually involve a swearing of secrecy. In most of the five smoke-easies visited in neighborhoods across Seattle for this story, the transformation from otherwise-law-abiding bar to underground nicotine den happens late in the evening. There is no official witching hour, just the sense that for the most part only the regulars are left.

I'm not even a smoker, but this warms the cockles of my little individualist heart. Good for them.

And from the P-I's published list of smoking violations, one location really stood out to me - Diwan Hookah Lounge. I mean, how exactly does one run a hookah lounge with self-deputized Seattlites (I won't pretend that this law was pushed by all Washingtonians) looking to rat them out?

I've patronized a hookah bar down the street from my office in the past, an enjoyable experience. But, because of soured lease negotiations and the effect of the new law, that hookah bar is no more. And, sadly, this one will likely follow, all because a bunch of paranoid control freaks can't stand being told to make a choice where to spend their dollars on a Friday night.

There's another bar near my bus stop where the tiny sidewalk patio is always jammed with smokers - even in inclement weather - not 5 feet from the entrance. (I won't reveal its name or location lest one of the aforementioned control freaks reads this.) I'm still in amazement that this little dive hasn't been reported by some nosy, prissy passerby. Because this hole-in-the-wall seems to be patronized solely by smokers, I wonder if some ultimatum has been handed down by the bar's owners, something along the lines of "We'll close if we receive even one complaint." Smokers or not, the patrons certainly aren't tattling.

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