Weekender

It was one of the last bars to allow smoking. Why Boalsburg’s The Bar is clearing the air

The air just got a little cleaner in Centre County.

Smoking in bars in Pennsylvania has been restricted since the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008, but bars that make less than 20 percent of their total revenue have been able to continue to allow smoking. That’s been the case at Boalsburg’s The Bar since the watering hole and live music venue opened — until recently.

“The Bar has been a smoking establishment since we opened in 2009,” The Bar manager Chyers Myers wrote in an email, “and ... one of the last public places that people could go to light up a cigarette or cigar to indulge in alongside their drink. It (has been) well known as a ‘smokers’ bar.’ ”

Before the change, going to The Bar presented a tension of choices. On the one hand, it is a cool place, and there are lots of friendly people in there who love to listen to live, local music and connect with others. On the other hand, it was consistently smoky in there, despite renovations that steadily expanded its size, and despite attempts to maintain a smoke filtration system that worked great when it was up and running.

Aside from those tensions, it is also a place that has bonafide regulars. The decision to go non-smoking was about a year in the works, Myers said.

“We did a spring deep clean, scrubbing down walls and trying to clean up the grunge from the wintertime, and we decided it was the best time to make this place a non-smoking establishment,” he said.

The decision took The Bar’s customers into consideration, too.

“We wanted to have a much healthier environment for people to come by and enjoy themselves without their eyes burning from the smoke or leaving here smelling like an ashtray,” Myers said.

As hoped, and perhaps a bit expected, the decision to go smokeless has resulted in an uptick in business, according to Myers.

“It’s definitely a game changer in here,” Myers wrote. “We have had many new customers since the decision to go smoke-free, but the word has still not gone out as wide as we think it will thus far. We’re enjoying see new faces and drumming up business from people who otherwise would not want to come here.”

The Bar is a musical stronghold in Centre County and is definitely a favorite place to play for musicians — even with the smoke — mostly because the staff and clientele are so supportive and appreciative. It’s one of the few places that supports a variety of musical programming in our area, and is also one of the few places where the more original you are, the more the crowd tends to like it.

“The music scene in the bar has changed dramatically since I started working here in 2011,” Myers wrote, “and it’s been a roller coaster ride that I have enjoyed watching happen. We have had our faithful bands, (and) we have a slew of new artists coming through.”

The smoke-free change comes just in time for The Bar’s 10th anniversary, which will be marked with a celebration on May 11. There will also be a punk show there on Saturday.

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.
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