By Maria Cook
As of April 1, smoking is no longer permitted indoors at Carmel’s VFW Outpost 10003. The decision has left Carmel with only three public establishments that permit smoking: Nippers Grill & Tap on 116th Street, American Legion Post 155 on West Main Street and Old Town Tavern on West Main Street in the Arts & Design District.
VFW Post 10003 has been a part of Carmel since 1968. According to Post Commander Steven McDanield, members voted overwhelmingly March 18 to end the post’s policy of allowing indoor smoking by a 15-2 vote. Although it represents a major change for Post 10003, McDanield said he was not particularly surprised by the decision.
“We did a survey of veterans, asking if they would join the VFW or why they weren’t coming in anymore, if they were already members, and one of the top three reasons was that the VFW still allowed smoking,” McDanield said. “These younger veterans do not want to smoke. And as an organization, the young veterans are our future, the future of the post. Without fail, every post that has voted to go non-smoking has seen an increase in their membership and an increase in their business revenue. I started asking questions myself, and I heard story after story of, ‘I’d hang out here more often’ or, ‘I’d bring my family in here more often if you all didn’t smoke.’”
On the other hand, Steve Ward, who co-owns Nippers Grill & Tap with his wife, Amy Ward, said their business would suffer if they banned smoking.
“We’re aware that it turns some people off,” Ward said. “Although my wife and I are both non-smokers, we don’t want to upset the apple cart, so to speak. There was once a study done (that) tracked establishments that decided to ban it. Somewhere north of 50 percent of those establishments failed within a two-year period. We’re very aware of that. We’re a neighborhood bar, so we recognize that Sunday through Thursday, 90 percent of our business is regular-driven, and even on the weekend it’s still 50 percent regular-driven.”
American Legion Post 155 and Old Town Tavern, Carmel’s other two smoking establishments, did not respond to requests for comment.
As for the V.F.W., McDanield said that smoking members should still be able to enjoy themselves at Post 10003.
“Some members feel that we shouldn’t tell veterans that they can’t smoke after all the sacrifices they have made,” he said. “While I understand and actually agree with that, my logic has always been that there are a lot of veterans out there who have health problems, that can’t be around smoke, and my philosophy is that the VFW was a haven for all veterans to come in and enjoy the post.
The compromise is that those who smoke can easily step outside and have a cigarette, just as many of them do at home, on the rear deck area.”
McDanield said the post has applied for a grant to help finance the construction of a climate-controlled smoking room addition to the building.
“We’re going to do this right,” he said. “We’re trying to accommodate these smoking veterans, especially since most of them started smoking when they first joined the military.”