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Going smoke-free a success at New Amsterdam -- so far

"I think people are just getting used to it, because it's pretty much everywhere now."

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Jimmy Woods was surprised when the state sent him a letter in June informing him that his bar -- the New Amsterdam in Lawrenceville -- could no longer allow smoking indoors. Woods had reason to be anxious, too.

The last time Woods tried to banish smoking, "I tried it for like a week, maybe a year-and-a-half ago, and my business died," he recalls.

That was the nightmare scenario many bar-owners feared when Pennsylvania's Clean Indoor Air Act went into effect three years ago this month. The act bans smoking in any public establishment that earns more than 20 percent of its revenue through food sales. Woods' bar had been approaching that threshold. As a result, the New Amsterdam has been smoke-free this summer -- and not by choice. 

This time around, though, its patrons seem to be more accommodating. 

"I think people are just getting used to it, because it's pretty much everywhere now," Woods says.

Mike Strackhouse, a New Amsterdam regular, confirms that impression. While he says he doesn't like the smoking ban, he doesn't plan to start drinking elsewhere. "I've been coming here for umpteen years," he says

Bartender Pete Rutkowski, meanwhile, is a bit more upbeat about the change. "It's good," he says. "I'm actually a smoker myself," he adds, but "I smoke less now."

Neither Woods nor Rutkowski has received many complaints about enforcing the ban. But of course, the weather has been warm, making it easy for smokers to step outside. And New Amsterdam's large garage door has been open much of the summer, making it practically an indoor/outdoor space anyway. 

Woods admits to being "a little worried about wintertime." But he thinks a smoke-free bar might actually help business. "There were times where you couldn't stand to be in here. I couldn't stand to be in here."

Strackhouse, for one, isn't looking forward to smoking outside in the winter. Regardless, he says, "I'll deal."

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