Toby’s Tavern goes smokeless

The strangling stench of the 43 different cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke has been replaced with the aromas of garlic, fried everything and beer.

Historic Toby’s Tavern in Coupeville went smoke-free Oct. 1, a move that has pleased more than it has peeved.

“It’s excellent,” waitress Julie Nicolle said. “We’ve been busier than we usually are this time of year.”

The change stemmed from a simple fact: owner John Rodriguey does not like cigarette smoke. His main concern was the health of his employees, he said.

Rodriguey has owned Toby’s for 16 years, and said the business has grown. Smoking did not fit in with this growth, he said.

“Through the years, Toby’s has gotten to be a better restaurant,” he said. “I personally believe that smoke and good food don’t go together.”

The change has not hurt business, Rodriguey said. In fact, 99 out of 100 people have thanked him for the change, he said.

“This is our slowing down phase after the summer tourist rush,” Rodriguey said. “It appears that we’re doing as good as, or better than last year.”

The American Lung Association estimates that from 1995 to 1999, smoking killed over 440,000 people in the United States each year. The risk to employees at bars and restaurants is significant. According to the association, bar and restaurant workers are 1 1/2 times more likely to die of lung cancer than if the places were 100 percent smoke free.

In addition, eight hours of working in a smoky bar is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes each day due to the second hand smoke.

“To me, it doesn’t make much of a difference so long as the customers are happy,” Nicolle said.

Some customers, such as Coupeville resident Jennifer Hauswurz, did not know of the change. After sauntering in one day last week, she promptly lit a cigarette. Nicolle politely scolded her and an embarrassed Hauswurz scurried outside to finish her smoke.

“Usually I go here so I can smoke inside,” Hauswurz said. “When people come to some place like this, it’s because they want to light up and drink a beer.”

People who desire to smoke indoors have other options in Coupeville. Bars at the Tyee Restaurant and the Mad Crab allow people to smoke.

John McElroy, who stopped in from out of town, said that even though he is a smoker, not being able to smoke inside is not troubling to him.

“I’m happy to hear that it’s smokeless,” he said. “I don’t need to smoke to play pool.”

Most customers who desire a few drags have not complained about having to step outside, Nicolle said. That would probably change, however, McElroy said.

“Right now, it doesn’t bother me, but talk to me in the rain,” he said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at

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