Indiana’s oldest bar goes smoke-free after 181 years

(WLFI Photo)

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Cigarette smokers can no longer light up at The Knickerbocker Saloon in downtown Lafayette. After 181 years the bar is now smoke free.

Knickerbocker Saloon is the latest bar to kick the smoking habit.

“Historically, bars were the place where you went to do bad things like smoke and drink,” Knickerbocker Saloon owner Jeff Hamann said. “I’m not saying the Knickerbocker Saloon was a place to do bad things, but that’s kind of the feel.”

Customers can no longer light up.

“Some of the smokers were understanding,” said Hamann. “They said, ‘It’s the wave of the future, it’s the way the world is.’”

Hamann said hopefully smoking customers won’t stop coming. But he said it was time for the switch.

“Some of the smokers were definitely disappointed,” he said. “They said, ‘We like the Knickerbocker that was our place to have a smoke.’”

But after Hamman’s mother died from smoking complications, he knew it was time to make the change to no smoking. “That hits close to home,” he said.

Knickerbocker also won’t tolerate e-cigarettes.

“The science again is not conclusive,” said Knickerbocker Saloon general manager Deborah Walstra. “Obviously there are chemicals in it. I don’t know what they are, and I don’t know how it affects others. Some people still find it offensive even when though some of them do smell better.”

But customers can still smoke both on the patio.

Now, the biggest challenge is getting rid of the smoky smell.

“We scheduled a week for basically scrubbing down every square inch of the bar,” Hamann said.

That, plus coats of fresh paint, has already made a difference.

“I’ve seen new people coming in that have never been here before but have always wanted to visit the bar, but they knew it was smoking,” said Walstra. “And now they actually get to embrace the history we have here.”

The Knickerbocker is also making some renovations scheduled to be complete by June 1.

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