Smoke-free Slowdown? You decide (but not really); Thee More Shallows, Capgun Coup tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:38 pm May 14, 2007

According to the online countdown clock at Slowdown’s website, the venue will open in a mere 24 days. The first show was booked a couple weeks ago — Built to Spill on July 18. And now the website has added a discussion board with its first survey question: “Would you like Slowdown to be smoke-free?”

Voting requires that you register, of course. There’s a problem with conducting an online poll — the owners of said poll generally have to respond to its outcome. What if 51 percent of responders say they want the venue to be smoke-free? Will that be enough to sway owners/operators Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel, who already have said they intend to allow smoking? Probably not. Despite what anyone says, the decision rests squarely on their shoulders. Since Slowdown doesn’t serve food, the club can legally allow smoking, at least for the next four or five years or whenever the city’s ordinance expires (or until the state eventually passes legislation that bans smoking in all public spaces).

Not allowing smoking probably makes the most sense, especially considering that Slowdown will target an under-21 crowd, an audience whose parents likely would be more apt to allow their kids to go down there if they knew it was a smoke-free establishment. Add to that the fact that a state-mandated all-public-spaces ban probably will be in place before the city’s current ordinance expires, and the fact that neither Robb nor Jason smoke (as far as I know) and the decision seems obvious. That is until you factor in the financial costs of making the club smoke-free.

The long-standing argument always has been that if you ban smoking, smokers will not come. I think that’s probably true, but only for the serious 2- to 3-pack-a-day lifers (or death-ers). Casual smokers won’t care — they’re there to see the bands, anyway. Will it stop them from hanging out and drinking afterward? Maybe, probably. And that might be the tipping point in their decision.

Robb and Jason are running a bar, after all, and selling booze is a big part of that. Under-21s don’t buy many $4 Rolling Rocks. One of the factors to the venue’s success will be how well it caters to a drinking clientele — to get them down there with or without live bands performing. And smoking always has been a factor in drawing a “regulars” crowd. Has the smoking ban hurt the draw at Sokol shows? Probably not, but no one goes to Sokol for any other reason than to see the bands — after the last encore it’s off to The Brothers or O’Leaver’s or The Waiting Room for last call. Slowdown wants to be on that list of final-destination bars, too, a list that (because of its proximity) will include all the Old Market bars as well. That’s why this poll probably won’t mean anything at the end of the day.

Tonight at The Waiting Room, it’s San Francisco’s Thee More Shallows with local boys Capgun Coup. $7, 9 p.m.

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