SHERIDAN — The air has begun to clear at yet another Sheridan bar.
The Rainbow Bar at 264 N. Main St. is officially smoke free following a decision by the family that has long owned the downtown establishment.
Don Townsend, the bar’s owner for nearly 50 years, died earlier this month, and during a celebration of his life at the bar last weekend, his family decided to finally enact a ban.
Although he wasn’t a smoker, Townsend suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease that was likely caused by his many years of exposure to secondhand smoke at the bar.
Dana Townsend, Don Townsend’s daughter-in-law, said her family decided that enacting a ban would serve as an important way to honor his memory.
Although it’s too early to make any definitive claims about what the change might mean in terms of business levels, Townsend said most customers seem pleased with the decision.
“Several smokers said, ‘I don’t like smelling like smoke, and I’d be happy to smoke outside,’” she said.
In addition to creating a cleaner environment inside the bar, Townsend said the new smoke-free nature of the establishment might discourage younger patrons from ever picking up the habit.
The Rainbow is the second Main Street bar to go smoke free in recent months.
The Mint Bar announced a smoking ban early in May, and management says business has been booming in the time since it went into effect.
Public health experts have lauded the decisions by both bars, saying smoking bans make sense from both health and economic standpoints.
“I think what you’re seeing in Sheridan, with The Mint and now with the Rainbow, is the extension of a national trend where people will actively seek out smoke-free establishments,” Thom Gabrukiewicz, community prevention specialist with the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention of Sheridan County, wrote in an email to The Sheridan Press. “Establishing smoke-free places to gather is the simplest and most cost effective way to improve patron, worker and business health.”
While some residents have pushed for a city mandated smoking ban in recent years, the plan has not been formally introduced into the legislative process by government officials.
Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey said that despite being personally in favor of smoking bans at Sheridan bars, he has no plans to push for involvement by the government.
“I feel it’s a decision best left to each individual business owner,” he said. “The real key is not government mandates but societal shifts in attitudes toward smoking.”
After speaking with patrons who say they are excited about the change, owners of The Rainbow believe that shift is underway.