TUSCALOOSA | When Chad Smith opened a new tavern, he made it different from his competition by banning smoking inside.
“I think the town is moving in that direction,” said Smith, owner of the Alcove International Tavern, which opened about two months ago at 730 22nd Ave. “I think in three to four years, all taverns will be non-smoking, because that seems to be the trend.”
In 2003, a state law banned smoking in hospitals, schools, most retail businesses, elevators, buses and taxis, and several Alabama municipalities have enacted smoking bans that are even more restrictive.
Tuscaloosa’s ban of smoking in public places exempts bars that don’t serve food. In bars within establishments serving food, smoking is allowed after 10 p.m.
But Smith said he deliberately went further by opening a smoke-free, drinks-only tavern. He said the response from customers has been positive.
Alcove allows patrons to smoke in its two outside seating areas only.
“Alcove is a smaller place than some, but it is a niche for people who like a good quality drink and not be in a smoke-screen environment,” he said.
Businesspeople who come in for a drink before heading home like the idea, Smith said. “They don’t want to reek from smoke when they walk out, and they don’t want to have to send their suit to the dry cleaners the next day,” he said.
Thirteen states ban smoking in all public places, including bars, according to Smoke Free USA, a Web site that monitors smoking restrictions. Those states are California, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, Hawaii, New Jersey, Iowa, Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also ban smoking in bars, Smoke Free USA said.
Meanwhile, Smith said his movement to a smoke-free bar appeals to his clientele of professionals who come after work, people who stop for after-dinner drinks and college graduate students.
Alcove, which is located in the block behind the downtown Regions bank building, carries top line liquor and uses 2 ounces of liquor in its drinks, he said.
“Our customers get a better quality and a better quantity, but our prices are a little more,” he said.
The bar also offers “mocktails,” alcohol-free drinks made from fruit juices and clear sodas that are mixed to taste like liquor-containing cocktails.
Smith said he got the idea for “mocktails” while working as a sales representative in the Mideast. Many of the Muslim countries there banned alcohol but feature “mocktails.”
Alcove also sells 80 different beers and rotates its tap beers to reflect seasonal specialties. It had Samuel Adams Octoberfest last week but soon will phase out that fall beer to feature a heavier winter stout, Smith said. In spring, it might feature bock beers and in summer golden wheat ales.
Many of the beers are the premium high-gravity, craft beers from Southern breweries like Good People in Birmingham, he said.
Alcove also has a selection of wines.
The bar has live jazz on Tuesday nights and has a daily happy hour from 4 to 9 p.m.
It is opens daily at 4 p.m. and remains open until 2 a.m. weekdays, 3 a.m. on Friday and until 2 a.m. [Sunday] for Saturday night patrons.