One bar in Wrangell made the decision to go smoke-free as of January 1st. KSTK’s Shady Grove Oliver spoke with the owner about the decision.

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Rayme’s Bar is one of three year-round open bars in Wrangell.

There are also a handful of members-only clubs and seasonal establishments that serve alcohol.

But if you think of just a plain old bar, there’s only three.

And Rayme’s decided to go smoke-free on New Year’s Day of this year.

Reme Privett is the owner of Rayme’s. He says he made the decision not for the stereotypical reason.

“It’s more of a trend. It had nothing to do with health. My employees down there—they’ve never voiced an opinion either way,” says Privett.

There are towns where going smoke-free would be an obvious choice, but Wrangell isn’t one of them.

If you walked into a bar here on any given day, you’d see a cigarette in many—sometimes the majority—of customers’ hands.

But the state and the country are following a different trend.

“You know, it’s just kind of the way the world’s going. I think very shortly you’re going to see that the state of Alaska is going to do this. Palmer just went smoke-free. I know in Wasilla there’s two bars up there you can still smoke in. Anchorage is smoke-free. Juneau is smoke-free. Petersburg is smoke-free. I mean, it’s just the way it’s going,” says Privett.

Privett says it’s an idea he’s considered for a long time. But, when he bought the bar six years ago, he chose to allow smoking because of the stringent regulations that come with being smoke-free.

“I wasn’t against a smoke-free bar. What I was against was all of the stuff that went along with it. If somebody got caught in there, the bartender would be fined, the bar would be fined and all this other stuff,” says Privett.

He says he hopes that being in front of the possible future trend here will perhaps give Rayme’s some room to help shape its own smoke-free policies.

“Right now, we’re just asking people to step outside and have a cigarette. In other towns, you have to be 20 feet away from any opening. All we’re trying to do—we’re not police, we’re just bartenders—we’re just trying to make it so everybody can enjoy it. And if you’re going to smoke, we’re just going to ask you to go outside. To me it’s not a big deal and I’ve talked to a lot of smokers and they say it’s not a big deal to them,” says Privett.

Privett says he does worry about losing old business. But, he says he’s seeing a lot of new faces in the bar since the ban went into effect.

The choice to start in the middle of winter was deliberate.

Privett says it’s a slow time for business anyway, so it’s a good time to test out a new system.

Yes, it is a test, but Privett says he hopes his bar can afford to stay smoke-free.

“I’ve wanted to try it for a while. I’m not sure if I can say it’s going to be permanent because this is my livelihood and I’m not going to lose myself if this doesn’t work. I guess you could say we’re testing it out but I really want to stay smoke-free. It’s kind of nice,” says Privett.

Privett says Rayme’s will still sell tobacco products like the other bars and liquor stores in town.