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March 24, 2009

Ropewalk Tavern gets a smoking ban exemption

ropewalk tavern baltimoreIt is now legal to smoke cigarettes and cigars inside Ropewalk Tavern (1209 S. Charles St.).

Ropewalk recently received an exemption from the statewide smoking ban.

It's technically called an economic hardship waiver, and to get it, they had to show sales losses of 15 percent over the course of two months.

I went there last night and enjoyed a fine cigar, a fine beer and some fine company -- just like the old days.

But the McFaul clan, which runs the place, reinstated smoking in a smart way ...

Instead of allowing people to smoke on the first two floors, where it would stink up the room, they are only letting customers smoke on the third floor. 

ropewalk tavern baltimoreI didn't even know Ropewalk had a third floor. Come to find out, it's a pretty nice space, with leather sofas and chairs and Ronald Reagan memorabilia (Ropewalk is a Republican-themed bar).

Oh, and I got a kick out of all the signs warning patrons about the smoke, too. 

Ropewalk isn't the first cigar bar to get an exemption. The Havana Club (600 Water St.) received its waiver last June. Max's Taphouse (737 S. Broadway) reopened Max's Tobacco Company so that patrons could smoke cigars indoors.

That means there are now about as many cigar bars in Baltimore as before the smoking ban started.

Fancy that.

(Top, Sun photo by Gene Sweeney. Bottom photo by me.)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:03 PM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Funny, I saw that sign on the way up. And another one. And another one. And another one. And another one. And...

So yeah, message received. And I appreciate the warning. But dude, buy some frames, seriously. That tape-and-printout thing doesn't fly. The Gipper might allow such tacky decor, but Nancy wouldn't.

The McFauls are very savy business people. They always know how to make something a sucess....

In a side note, i dont know how long ago you snapped the photo of the front of RW, but they were fined for having those signs out front by the city which i believe is complete BS. Not sure if you know about this sam, and also a few neighbor hood bars/ business have been fined for the sandwich boards being out front, Taps and Ron Zimmerman reality to name a couple. (these fines are not small either). You should look into why the city is going nuts on fining people all of a sudden for things that have been going on for years

LSF - revenue grab are nothing new when it comes to Baltimore.

To LSF -

Dixon needs to get her money somehow!

Also, Sam, this might be interesting for a post - Cash vs Credit at bars since 2008. I talked to a few bartenders near St. Pats Day. They said that the bar intake of funds used to be 50 percent cash, 50 percent credit. Since about Oct of last year, it is now 20 percent cash, 80 percent credit. That actually hurts bars.

In 2008, I returned from military service in Iraq to find a few changes. Gasoline prices were elevated, the stock market was down, and O’Malley had lost his mind. None of the aforementioned things bothered me as much as the fact that I could no longer smoke inside the Ropewalk. A man has to have his priorities. I have spent many years enjoying a smoke, and good conversation with many friends at this establishment. Going outside to burn one wasn’t the same. As a smoker I am glad to have a cigar bar where I can actually toke on a cigar or cigarette inside the building. Thanks Mark, Bill, and Linda...

It seems like in these economic times, any bar could show a 15% drop in sales? It is a bit worrisome to think this drop is being directly associated with smoking no longer being allowed versus the economic downturn in general.

Sandwich board fines are rediculous. $500 for having a sign out front ? I can see a warning, but this is just absurd.

President Reagan approves

I just heard about the sandwich board dilemma the other day. I "heard" that the fine was something like $500 just for posting a sandwich board. It happened at Mother's last week, I didn't hear about Taps and Mr. Zimmerman. It sounds like someone from the friendly neighborhood association to me but then again I guess it could be the city looking for make a few bucks.

Mark McFaul is extremely brilliant and he knows how to run a bar, I have talked to him before just to pick his brain. It's not that difficult to show business loss over two months during a recession, nice loophole, lol!

Credit vs. Cash was 71% to 29% for me last year. Made me want to buy stock in VISA. They got you every which way. I just learned that every time I was pre authorizing a credit card that I was paying 10 cents, so I stopped that unless the tab gets a little too high. I ran the numbers and I will save $3000 this year just by running credit cards when the customer is ready to close out. That's a lot of credit cards.

wow, impressive story,


Score one for civilization!

Could this be some common sense making an appearance??

Very good move.. It is up to the BAR OWNERS NOT GOVERNMENT to decide if they will allow smoking in their establishement.. It's called free enterprise people.. I fully back any owner who doesn't allow smoking in their establishment, when it's THEIR choice.

Non-smokers have a right not to patronize taverns who allow smoking.

The state smoking ban was nothing but a flex of political power and a payback to the anti-smoking lobby by The Rat Owe' Malley..

Remember what this RAT has done to you in the next election!! Higher Taxes and he'll STOP the BGE rate hikes.. HA!

I am not a smoker, but never had a problem being in bars that had smoking. In the last year since the ban, I have really gotten used to not being around smokers. I was outside of Power Plant Live at a concert with people smoking around me recently and it was really uncomfortable. For the first time in over a year, I went home with my clothes smelling like smoke. I don't know if an overall ban is necessary, but I think most people will favor non-smoking bars over smoke filled ones. I was not that thrilled with the clientele that Ropewalk had before, so now that they have allowed smoking, it makes my choice not to go there even easier.

There should smoking bars and non-smoking bars. People should have the right to chose what their business allows. If people have a problem with the smoke, they don't HAVE to walk in the bar. There are certain bars around the US that just accept the fines that they receive from the smoking violations because the added business from the smokers EASILY covers the cost.

Ah, the ropewalk reinstates smoking in an attempt to kill republicans!!! hmmm.

Yet another reason NOT to go to the Ropewalk. Not that I needed any more. The general tenor of the Ropewalk fans' comments on this blog is very reflective of the clientele and is enough to turn away most neighborhood residents. I'm glad all my Baltimore County prep school classmates who moved downtown to my native neighborhood and are now unemployed from Legg Mason have a place to run up their credit card debt while still wallowing in the close-minded company of their minority conservative cronies. Now when they say hello to me on the streets of Federal Hill they can be drunk AND smelling like cigar smoke. Delightful

I agree totally. If a bar wants to allow smokers that is fine.

If they want to be a non-smoking bar that is fine too.

People can choose where they want to go based on that.

So if you show a decline in business, how long is the exemption good for? 2 months, 6 months, 1 year? What is the acceptable amount to put the ban back in place, pre-ban numbers? I don't care either way, just curious. Smoke em if ya got em?

A shrine to Ronald Reagan and smoking. Now there are two reasons for me not to set foot in the Ropewalk.

Just to clarify: It is not the patrons the government is trying to protect from smoke. It is the bar/restaurant employees.

Having been a customer before & after the ban, I saw the effect it had on business. Glad to see Mark, Bill, & Linda have done something to bring in the people again. Just using the 3rd floor is a great idea. Good Job Ropewalk!!

Why do I suspect that the cash the owners took in bypassed the registers in order to prove they lost business.

I've been in there before this exemption and the place was just as packed with over drinking under achievers.

Also, remember that motivation for smoking bans is about providing a healthy environment for the establishments employees. The patron's health and desires are secondary.

Just another reason, besides the lack luster food and retro Baltimore attitude, to find a better hang.

It seems like in these economic times, any bar could show a 15% drop in sales? It is a bit worrisome to think this drop is being directly associated with smoking no longer being allowed versus the economic downturn in general.

Alcohol consumption goes up during hard times, not down. I'm not sure about bars, but I know liquor stores are doing very well right now.

sam, so what does this mean for max's?

@ giftcards:
NY bars in the village are almost all cash-only.
Push people to do it and they will. It's ingratiating, but NY bar owners don't seem to care.

Well I have been going to Ropewalk for about 10 years. But I would have to say that I won't be going anymore. The smoking ban has been the greatest thing since sliced bread for non-smokers. If I have the choice I simply don’t want to be around it at all. Period. So that is a loss of a longtime customer for the Ropewalk.

Wow - is the smoking debate really going to start AGAIN?! I love it. There is no doubt in my mind that secondhand smoke causes health issues. My mom smoked in the house when I was a kid - I had no say - and woke up with a sore throat every morning. As soon as she decided to not smoke inside, I never had issues. I had the same thing when going into a smoky bar. Either way, I've definitely spent more money going out with the smoking ban in effect.

As for a 15% decrease, I would imagine it would be very very difficult to prove it was because of the smoking ban based on the economic variables now - but I suppose it doesn't really matter WHY sales are down in the way the exemption was written. Maybe that loophole should have been addressed.

hahahahaha! now they can blow smoke down at all you whiny liberals!

Except when it comes for opening a bar in Canton or Bel Air

I don't mind the loophole. We've had over a year to consider the consequences of this smoking ban. From the sound of it, the bars that have won exceptions fit right into the smoking culture. Good for them.

At first, I loved the smoking ban: I could go out and stay out all night without suffering sinus headaches and painful nasal passages. There were some surprising consequences however. When one smoker went outside to have a cigarette, everyone else followed. I was usually the only one left with the responsibility of guarding purses, bar stools and drinks. It is a lonely world for the non-smoker...

Great news!!!!!! They can make a law to stop them from opening in Canton, because Canton Bar owners are afraid of conservative competition, but America freedom still comes through even for a little while. I also hear they are getting 4 times the going rate rent in Bel Air. America lives!!!!!!!!!! Enough of Stalin a.k.a. Obama.

Melanchthon - What's with all the stereotypes? Those aren't the only types of people that go to Ropewalk. I patronize Ropewalk quite a bit and I'm a left-leaning public school guy who moved to your native neighborhood and STILL has a job with that company you mentioned in your post;) and I pay with cash btw.

I go there when I feel like drinking something other than Miller Lite since they have a pretty extensive beer collection. When I first read the title to this post I was very disappointed but now that I see smoking is allowed only on the 3rd floor it looks like a win-win for everyone.

True about TWO Canton Bar owners, others could care less. As for Bel Air, they had to get out because they had zero business. They did get lucky with getting The Green Turtle in there, but they are doing even worse than the Ropewalk did. There is no competeing with Looney's & Sean Bolan's. Do they have a fire escape on the third floor..Why would you walk up there when you can walk out the front door to smoke?

Zero business? I thought it was the multiple under age drinking violations.

Zero business..WRONG!! They were busy for 2.5 years and doing well. Busier than Looneys Pub. Violations Wrong! Everyone in Bel Air had more than them. They turned in more fake ids to the liq board than the entire county combined. I worked there. They had 2 and they couldn't fight them because the liquor board wouldn't transfer the license to Green Turtle unless they dropped the charges. They got tired of a racist police chief and liberal Aegis.
The same Aegis that the Asst. States Attorney brought them blood brawls in Looney's and the tower but they wouldn't print anything about it. So they print a girl fight that one liquor board viewed as "not even a 30 sec. spat". The chief sent 20 cops to that. The chief told them to change the color of their doormen and never have more than .05% black people in the place. Ask the old Mayor Terry Hanney. He will back it up. There is proof he heard it. They were in the process of opening a second place on Main Street. They sold that at the same time. Busy?? They were busy enough to open 2 places, but not put up with the racist back woods cop and a liberal rag.
Get the facts !

Geez John don't hold back,tell us how you really feel.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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