Petersburg Pilot -


Totem, Elks, to join Rayme's as no-smoke zones


WRANGELL — Two prominent local taverns will join the ranks of the smoke-free in the coming weeks.

Totem Bar & Liquor Store will go smoke-free tomorrow, according to signs posted inside the bar over the weekend. Elks Lodge members also voted this week to go smoke-free, though Elks leadership has not yet set a date for the transition.

Both bars follow in the footsteps of Rayme’s Bar, which went smoke-free in January. The bar owner cited changing demographics among his clientele as the primary reason for the change.

The moves by the Elks and the Totem leave the Marine Bar the lone establishment in town that allows smoking, though the restaurant portion of the Marine Bar has been smoke free for some time.

The Elks Lodge had been discussing a potential change ever since the Rayme’s transition, Lodge officials said. Three members of the Lodge pushed to include the item on a meeting agenda last month, officials said. At a meeting called this week, the members who showed up cast 46 votes in favor of going smoke-free and 18 votes against it.

Totem owner Aaron Powell had been thinking about the change at the time Rayme's switched.

"I wasn't ready yet and he went ahead and did it," he said.

While the Elks vote made it easier for him to make the decision, he had been contemplating the clearing the air all along.

"I had my mind made up, regardless of what way the meeting went," he said. "It made it a lot easier."

Single-owner bars need to simply put up signs or direct patrons outside, while the Elks will forward their vote to the national committee, which will then return the approved by-law back to the Elks.

Elks officials could schedule a meeting in the next couple weeks to discuss a transition date, said Elks vice president Don Covalt.

The transition will be a positive thing, said Covalt, a non-smoker.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” he said. “I think it’s well overdue. My feeling is the majority do not smoke anyway, and from comments I have heard, I think number one we have a good chance of increasing our membership because it’s going to be a smoke-free establishment, and number two, once we go smoke-free we’ll see members we haven’t seen in awhile.”

The recent push to eliminate smoking in bars stands in stark contrast to the failure of an ordinance to eliminate smoking which went before voters in 2008. That ordinance, which would have eliminated smoking in places of employment, failed by a more than 2-to-1 margin, according to Borough Clerk Kim Lane.


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