Yet Another Restaurant Chooses Smoke-Free Path


(Monday, June 30, 2008 9:41 AM EDT)

A state-wide smoking ban in Virginia doesn't seem likely anytime soon, but that isn't keeping one Arlington brew pub from going smoke-free.

As of July 1, the Capitol City Brewing Company at the Village at Shirlington will start its new campaign “No Butts About It: Cap City Is Proud to Be Smoke Free!”

Capitol City owner David von Storch has thought about going smoke-free at the Shirlington location, since April 2006, when the District's smoking ban in restaurants went into effect (the ban was extended to D.C. bars and nightclubs Jan. 1, 2007). But he held back for business reasons.

“I feel it's taken too long to reach this decision,” he said.

Von Storch, is a self-confessed health nut, and he said he “knows [going smoke free] is the right decision,” but he is worried about the consequences of the change in policy.

“We're nervous about it. Going out to eat is using a discretionary dollar,” he said. “We expect to lose about 10 percent of our business, and in this economy, that's hard to swallow. There's an association with craft beer and being able to relax and have a cigarette. That's something we're changing.”

Von Storch doesn't anticipate that other Northern Virginia pubs and bars will follow Capitol City's lead. They might even capitalize on the fact that they do offer their customers the choice to light up, he said.

Although some customers have complained about the new non-smoking rule - there is even no smoking in the outside patio seating - von Storch hopes to reach customers who may have stayed away from the restaurant because of the smoke.

“We'll get complaints from someone with kids or who is offended by the smoke,” he said. “There is no good non-smoking area.”

Von Storch's hope is to attract people who were turned off by the smoking in the restaurant, but he knows that it may be hard to get them in the door.

“The people who do smoke will know very well that we've gone smoke free, but it's the people who don't smoke that are hard to communicate with,” he said. “The lag-time can be about a year.”

Going smoke-free is consistent with the company's concern for the health of its customers and employees. Last year Capitol City banned all trans-fats from its menu.

The smoking ban will coincide with an extensive interior renovation of the Shirlington location.

“We're getting rid of 10 years of accumulation of smoke!” von Storch said.

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