It's butts out for Minnesota bars

It was smoke 'em if you got 'em for the last time in Minnesota bars Sunday night. And if you didn't have 'em, Horseshoe Billiards in Duluth was giving them away.

It was smoke 'em if you got 'em for the last time in Minnesota bars Sunday night. And if you didn't have 'em, Horseshoe Billiards in Duluth was giving them away.

The Lincoln Park/West End bar celebrated the last hours of legal smoking in bars with a disc jockey party that included songs like "Smokin' in the Boys Room,'' and owner Jerry Fredrickson offering plates of free cigarettes and cigars.

They were going by the handful.

"No doggie bags, please," a sign read.

"We don't like it. But it's the law so we might as well have some fun with it,'' Fredrickson said.


It was dubbed "The Last Smoke Out,'' and dozens of bar patrons were obliging the theme -- trying to stretch the weekend as long as possible and puffing away as if it were about to become illegal.

"I think it sucks,'' said avid smoker Dan Forsell of Duluth. "I'll still come out and smoke on the [outdoor] patio, I guess. But it sucks to have other people telling us what we can do in a bar.''

Forsell was joined by three other smokers at a table, including Randi Ahlstrand of Duluth.

"No way is it going to make me stop smoking. I'm always going to smoke. I'll just smoke at home or go outside,'' she said.

Bob Stahlman of Duluth grabbed a free, fat cigar off a plate and lit up for the last time in a Duluth bar.

"It should be up to the customer, not the government,'' he said between puffs.

The bar was nearly full with Vikings fans drowning their sorrows, Packers fans celebrating, a few 8-ball and dart players and women in pairs checking cell phones between sips. And nearly everyone was smoking something. Except Adam Riesland of Duluth.

"I don't smoke. It doesn't bother me, I still go out with my friends who do smoke,'' Riesland said. "But I have to say, it's going to be nice not to reek when I get home and not have my eyes water all night.''


Riesland said some of the bar's customers, most of whom are in their 20s, may stay away for a few days but that most will come back for the socialization that the pool, darts and booze offers.

Fredrickson said he's worried some patrons will drive to Superior, where smokers can still light up inside with a brew in hand. Other customers may be lost to local Indian casinos where both are legal, with the bonus of gambling.

"It's going to hurt us, no doubt,'' Fredrickson said. "But at least now I can shampoo the carpets tomorrow and they won't turn gray from the smoke.''

A few of Fredrickson's loyal customers pitched in to help build a covered smoking pavilion outside the side door at Horseshoe Billiards. The new state law allows for outdoor patio and deck smoking unless local ordinances ban it. Duluth hasn't done that.

As of 12:01 a.m. today, it's illegal in Minnesota to smoke inside virtually any public building. It's part of an effort to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke -- which increasingly, evidence shows can cause serious health problems, including cancer.

In May, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed legislation called the Freedom to Breathe Act into law that updated Minnesota's 1975 Clean Indoor Air Act. The changes make it illegal to smoke in bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, private clubs and other work places.

Smokers still can light up outside in many places, except in some civic areas such as Duluth parks. Smoking also is allowed in private homes, tobacco stores, motel and hotel rooms (but not commons areas), in private vehicles (but not buses), some nursing homes and in Indian ceremonies.

Actors on stage also can legally light one up, with some rules attached.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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