WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published March 07, 2010, 07:25 PM

GF Smoke Free Bar Has Its Challenges

As the city of Grand Forks wrestles over an ordinance that would ban smoking in bars, One Grand Forks sports bar knows the issue well. Almost a year ago TJ's Sports Bar decided to go smoke free. It didn't make it the whole year smoke free...but recently it once again put the ash trays away and is giving it another shot.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

TJ's is located in strip mall along South Washington Street in Grand Forks. In the last couple of years it has made the transition from pool hall to sports bar.

Travis Van Sickle: "With the passion to get the pool players to come in and do what we love the big reason for opening the store in the first place."

Travis Van Sickle is the co-owner of TJ's. It was a year ago he decided his business would snuff out the cigarettes. But Van Sickle found out just how hard it was to quit.

Van Sickle: "Fell into a bit of trouble as far as getting it turned around. Getting more people that don't smoke coming in. Do to the expense of advertising. And that we didn't carry a hard liquor license."

By mid-summer, Van Sickle says TJ's was forced to allow bar patrons to light up again. Not good news for Travis's next door neighbors the Flower Bug.

Loren Fearing: It filters through the wall literally.

Flower Bug owner Loren Fearing says his store didn't smell very rosy.

Loren Fearing: "Come in the next day we would be spraying freshener, have all our candles going, we'd have to air out the place almost."

This was part of the reason why the owners of the strip mall decided to give TJ's Sports Bar the option of putting the cigarettes out or getting out. Van Sickle says, by that time he was ready to go smoke-free again.

Van Sickle: "Since November we have the hard liquor license, we made the decision and actually it have been quite good for us."

Van Sickle say he is drawing more people and offering free pool, live bands and drink specials. As far as the smokers go, they say..

Scott Smith: "It was rough at first, we didn't like it but we are used to it, Now just step outside."

And the expected smells are back at the Flower Bug.

Loren Fearing: We are able to keep it smelling like a flower shop, To me fresh flowers, candle scents are a really nice aroma.

Van Sickle says getting a charitable gambling black jack table in his bar has been tough because he is smoke-free. Some organizations don't think he would have the business to support it. Van Sickle says he does expect to have a table in the next few months.