Saturday, January 16, 2010

At the Coffee Pot, They're Still Lighting Up

My pal Robert Turcotte ran smack into Virginia’s new public smoking law last night and he’s not happy. What he actually ran into was the breaking of the law, overtly and massively at one of Roanoke’s oldest, most popular and now for sale roadhouse-dive-beer-joints, The Coffee Pot.

Here’s Robert’s report from a Facebook post that’s worth reading:

"I'm grumpy this morning. Although an abnormally irritable self from last night’s second-hand smoke exposure, I’m in truth touchy about the new non-smoking law . . . or rather, a lack of enforcement.

"Last night I visited the Coffee Pot with a friend, knowing the new law would allow us to hear the “Blue Grass Brothers” (a very professional touring group from these parts, btw), awakening the next day with a clear head, and without a pile of foul smelling clothes to launder. We walked past smokers in the bar. Given that the interior is practically one open area, we wondered aloud how the next room could be an isolated non-smoking area. After all, the law does say that areas must be physically separate, and with separate ventilation systems, true? Hmmm.

"The law also requires that we aren’t obliged to walk through the smoking area to get to our table. Something wasn’t right. We moved through an enthusiastic crowd as they listened and danced. We sat. Our eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. We became aware of a smoker here and there. My friend and I traded questioning looks. An ungainly young lady toting a restaurant sized condiments container emptied ash trays.

"At the band’s break, it was as though everyone in the place had lit two cigs each. Smoke breathers blew small clouds of blue air that combined in the room to form a thick haze, accented by the multi-colored stage lights. A quick trip to the pool room gave a bit of relief from the foul air.

"Having paid a cover charge, an urge to hear the band, and a reticence to ask for a cover charge refund combined to override good lessons learned over decades. We stayed. Friends wondered aloud about the situation. Did management somehow get a waiver? How did they do that? After all, it is a historical landmark!

"The Coffee Pot is on my path home, so I know regulars cars were parked outside on our recent snowy night. 'Pot Heads' (it’s actually printed on a sign behind the bar) are after all an avid bunch! So, did they appeal to the legislature and prevail (grin)? No. The realization sunk in - this restaurant was not only ignoring the new rules, but actually encouraged patrons by providing ash trays! This IS a blatant disregard of the new law.

"On the way out we asked staff about the smokers. We got an answer something like, 'Wellll, ya know there is a new law, but . . . I’m just here to work the door!,' as his body twitched in an odd, angular spasm of denial.

"I’ve looked forward to smoke free public buildings in Virginia since travel to other of our United States exposed me to the possibility. I hope soon we’ll learn to abide by the new guidelines. Until then, I’ll take my business elsewhere, Mr. Coffee Pot owner.

"There. I feel spiritually well again. I’m betting on an early morning nap will improve my physical self. I’m on the way to the couch for a de-grumping!"


  1. Similar experience, I played pool at Charbel's in Salem tuesday night and smoking was full blast in the entire place.

  2. I just had the same issue at the coffee pot this weekend (02/13). they told me they have a designated non smoking area (out on the patio) and that if i didn't like it they didn't want my business. i can not believe that they would take that attitude. I reported them to the health department.