Patrons of the Phyrst will no longer be able to light up inside the bar starting Friday — and employees say they hope the bar’s new smoke-free rules will draw more patrons into the Irish pub.
The Phyrst, 111 E. Beaver Ave., will join a host of already smoke-free downtown bars.
Manager Tim Riefel said the Phyrst had received feedback from patrons complaining about the smoky air in the basement. The bar’s management had been discussing becoming smoke-free since the beginning of the year, but arrived at an official decision Tuesday, he said.
“We were kind of looking at how many people didn’t want to come to the bar because of the smoke,” Riefel said. “We didn’t want to alienate people due to the smoke.”
The Phyrst plans to advertise the change on Facebook and through signage in the bar, Riefel said. The bar will also remove its cigarette machine.
“It’s not going to be the easiest transition, but we’re trying to remain positive,” Riefel said.
Some State College bars do have designated areas outside where smokers can take a drag, but fewer are allowing patrons to smoke inside.
Sharkies Bar and Thrifty Bottle Shop, 110 Sowers St., allows smoking in its downstairs bar. Bar manager Ashley Conterras said when other local bars ban smoking, their business benefits.
“It helps our business a lot in the winter because people don’t want to go outside and freeze,” she said. “But in the summer, it doesn’t matter because it’s not cold out.”
Conterras said Sharkies originally went smoke-free two years ago, along with most other State College bars. But the policy negatively affected business, she said. As a result, the bar left its upstairs area smoke-free and allowed smoking in the downstairs bar — a “best of both worlds” solution.
Riefel says he doesn’t think the switch will negatively affect business at the Phryst — patrons aren’t coming to the bar solely to smoke, he said.
“I don’t think we’re going to lose anything that makes this bar iconic,” he said. “The vast majority of [patrons] are looking for live music and a fun atmosphere. Smoking wasn’t necessarily a draw for the bar.”
Jared Stillman, whose band Table Ten was playing at the Phyrst on Tuesday, said he supports the bar’s decision to switch to a smoke-free policy.
“I have asthma, and I’m puffing my inhaler in between sets,” Stillman, Class of 2009, said. “It’s great for smokers, but personally it’s hard to sing if someone blows smoke in your face.”
Rebecca Mickletz (senior-integrative arts) said the Phyrst’s move toward a non-smoking environment is a good transition because the layout of the bar makes it particularly smoky.
“I would probably go more often because I generally don’t like smelly or smoky bars,” she said.
But some students said the smoky atmosphere is just another part of the bar scene.
“It never really makes a difference because when I go to a bar, I expect it to be smoky,” Wes Shaw (senior-aerospace engineering) said. “It won’t make much difference to whether I go or not.”
Jennifer Zangrilli, president of the Tavern Association, declined comment.