There are so few establishments that allow smoking indoors anymore that the ones that do are thought of relics of a bygone age. When most of the Inside Alabama Politics readership was growing up, and even when they were attending college, a pack of smokes was a likely necessity to a “good night out.”
As the ravages of tobacco use became clear in the 1990s and beyond, and municipalities and states sought to protect their citizenry from second hand smoke, the proverbial “smoke filled room” has no longer been that of a barroom (but rather the Joe-Ron Room).
Once, the statehouses of America, and even the halls of Congress were festooned with spittoons and ashtrays – and “Big Tobacco” dominated the decisions at the state level long after smoking was banned from workplaces at the federal level. We’re not just talking about usage, but also via donations to campaigns, and fighting off attempts to balance state budgets on the back of tobaccos taxes. Usage has also plummeted — the number of politicians and even lobbyists who openly smoke can probably be counted on one hand – and even Philip Morris has changed its name to ALTRIA to show their diversification as a company (and some would argue mask the real derivation of the funds).
Eventually this “healthwise” approach to public spaces consumed restaurants and cafes, and now it claims one of the last bars in Montgomery where smoking was welcomed.
We speak, of course, of Bud’s. Bud Skinner’s Cloverdale Playhouse. Ye of cold air conditioning, cold drinks, TVs, some of the best bar food available, and SMOKE. Smoke like in Scooby Doo where he uses his nail to cut a hole so he can see through it. Smoke like a Beijing afternoon. Smoke like the kind that permeates your clothes for days on end even if you just stopped in for a quick drink. Twenty or more folks packed at the bar, killing heaters and drinking their tipple of choice. The dinginess is part of the charm.
Well, all good things must come to an end, as they say, and Bud’s will soon re-open as a non-smoking establishment. Crews are right now tearing out all the smoke-filled ceiling tiles and making other renovations in preparation for the reopening. That’s probably a positive for all who frequent the place, but it is the end of an era.
For the uninitiated, the reason this is news in Inside Alabama Politics is that Bud’s is your quintessential political bar. For decades, politicos have frequented the Fairview Avenue watering hole to blow off steam from the legislative session and suck in some smoke. Lawmakers, lobbyists, big time officials and small time upstarts have come to Bud’s to hug, clink glasses and get along, while the very serious gentlemen in the Corner solve the world’s problems.
And like almost everything that has changed, people who love the way it was will bitch a bit, but they’ll adjust. Heck, most of us are so starved for a drink and some socialization what with the COVID and 40 million unemployed, and Murder Hornets and ANTIFA attacks, and childhood heroes dying and waiting for the next shoe to drop, we won’t even notice until we go to grab a book of matches or an ashtray, and are told by Bubba, “No smoking inside.”