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After a couple of drinks, my work was done. My eyes were stinging, which was definitely a sign that Chez Charlie was a strong contender for smokiest bar, even though my smoke detector didn't emit a peep. The clothing stink factor was high, and I put my pink cashmere scarf in Tupperware for the lucky Doug Frost.
The evidence that the bar might actually win came when I stopped in to see the Significant Other after my visit. "Ugh. You reek. You need to take a shower," he said.
As I washed the stench out of my hair, the S.O. moved my purse into a different room. The smokiness that clung to it was too much, he said. I became even more thankful for my balcony, where I regularly air out coats, purses, jeans and sweaters. I'm sure my neighbors love the sight of disheveled clothing on my broken lawn chair. I'm classy like that.
The next stop on the tour was the Clarette Club in Mission. I'd always liked the place it's a divey, laid-back bar. Because of a decent ventilation system and the fact that the bar takes up nearly an entire block, the smokiness factor isn't horrible.
I hovered near the bar and noted that most everyone in the pool-table area held cigarettes or cigars. That's where I met Louis French and Kendall Owen, two former Lawrencians who were sitting in front of the bar's semi-big-screen TV, watching the KU-Florida basketball game. During halftime, they shared their tales of smoking woe.
Louis is a nonsmoker but doesn't mind the haze in bars. "A lot of people in Lawrence don't go out because of it [the ban]. It changed Lawrence," said this 26-year-old, who now lives in Overland Park. Some of his friends would rather drive to Tonganoxie and Overland Park for a night out, he said.
Kendall, also 26, said he moved to Wichita because of the ban in Lawrence. Kendall is a former bar manager at J.B. Stout's Sports Bar and Grill and has worked at other bars and restaurants for the past six years. "It forced a lot of successful businesses to modify practices," he said eliminating cigar sales and adding patio seating, for example.
Both guys sympathized with the fact that I have to air out my manky clothes on my balcony.
"Look, smokers don't mind going outside," Kendall said. "It's just the older people who are set in their ways."
As I prepared to leave, I realized that the Clarette Club didn't leave me feeling smoked out. That's surprising, because the Clarette Club once sent me a T-shirt after I had written about the place, and the shirt carried a strong odor of cigarettes. And when the bar mailed some ballots for our Best of Kansas City issue, the package positively reeked of smoke.
After my excursion, the whiff factor on my black cotton sweater that I dropped into Tupperware was still above-average.
I also concluded that my smoke detector, which remained silent, probably wasn't the best tool to use in this highly scientific experiment. For some reason, "photoelectric technology" didn't translate to "nasty-smelling bars."