I got the word last night. Smoking will be prohibited in the Chart Room as of August 1.

A disgrace. A sad decision.

The determination does not affect me. I had to give up smoking 8 weeks ago. My last cigarette has been smoked. But to those who enjoy a cigarette with a drink, my heart goes out.

I am not sure why. I suspect someone might have complained about the smoking. Makes me laugh. A tourist comes in one or two times. The local regulars there almost every night. A tourist is offended by the smoking. He or she probably complained to management.

Management assumes it made a wise decision. I do not.

Business will suffer. An inevitable result.

I had a similar experience. Many months ago at Berlin’s. I went for dinner once a week. Pricey, but good. Also permitted smoking. They had been grandfathered in before the law prohibiting smoking where food was served had passed.

Berlin’s had the best filtration system. Even cigar smoking permitted. Berlin’s had been a cigar smoking bar for years. Affected no one. Impossible to smell smoke from any source. Clothes smelled clean at the end of the evening.

A group bought the place. Immediately outlawed smoking. I told the bartenders I would not be returning. My choice as the customer, the one spending the money.

I stayed away a month. Missed the ambiance of the place, the good food, and Bria Ansara singing on the weekend.

Parking was always free. The night I returned, the attendant asked for $20. I asked if he was crazy. I had been doing business there for years. He knew me. Nothing he could do. It was the new rule.

That did it! I left. First no smoking, now $20 to park. Berlin’s was not the only good restaurant in Key West.

I later was speaking to some one who worked at Berlin’s. He told me in the first 2 months of the no smoking rule, bartender tips were down 30 percent.

Which brings me back to the Chart Room. I shall continue going. Even if I were still smoking and offended. The history of the room calls me to it. The place unique.

The Chart Room however will lose business. No question about it.

My good friend David Wolkowsky has been dead less than a year. David conceived of and constructed the Pier House. It opened in 1967. The Chart Room 1968.

Locals at the time told David the hotel needed a place to drink. David agreed. A quick fix. Took out a first floor bedroom, added a mahogany bar, began serving alcohol.

In 1967, no one was famous and drinking was a sport. Soon  certain locals were nightly customers or working there. Besides David, Mel Fisher, Jim Croce, Che Kohn,       , Bob Marley, Mr. Bojangles, Panamah Pete, Tennessee Williams and Geoff Chapman. In later years, add Louis Petrone.

My too late admonition to the Pier House: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The ghosts of the Chart Room will gather and share tears the evening of August 1. An important part of Key West, steeped in history, diminished. No smoking! Wow!

Enjoy your day!


  1. Lou, do you know for certain the source of the complaint? “Born again” types are everywhere. I do agree however it is a foolish decision, same for Berlin’s, I enjoyed the cigar bar.. I’m thinking perhaps the Chart Room Management conjured the complaint to deflect the heat for the change in policy.

  2. For anyone trying to quit smoking, consider this. I found that smoking was not just one habit. It was a dozen or more habits; a cigarette with morning coffee, or with a drink, or after a meal, or after sex, or while driving. Each habit has to be tackled separately and overcome. This is why the overall smoking habit is so hard to beat. I quit more than 30 years ago, and still sometimes want a cigarette.

  3. I too quit over 30 years ago, but now no longer am tempted. I had problems for awhile, a year or so, but that ended. I too felt that there was no need for bars and restaurants to have no smoking rules, but after a while found my self uncomfortable going to places where smoking was allowed. So will you Lou. I think you may eventually find that smoking is about as appealing as say spitting, to the non participant and being around spitters not your thing anymore. Let them go someplace like that if they want, it’s just that you won’t want to anymore, simple as that. Now the people that make their money from places that allow spitters, they too have to be allowed to change their minds about who they want to cater to, and should be allowed to adjust their businesses as they see fit. That’s probably pissed off a lot of the spitting population too, don’t you think?

  4. I have never been a smoker. But several friends were over the years. After they became non-smokers, they were disgusted by the smell on their clothes and on others. It was like they had been immune from the smell, which was always apparent to me. Kinda funny to witness their new-found sense of smell.

    However, regarding the banning of smoking. I think a private business should be allowed to permit smoking if their customers and workers all agree. If they can make that business model work, more power to them. If others don’t like it, they don’t have to go there or work there. Free choice.

  5. Parking! Yes I too have stooped going to Berlins as well as other water front restaurants. $4.00 / hour for parking plus tip is just a second meal and part of the parking fee goes to off set the locals Real Estate taxes. I do not live in KW where the rich live– Why should I pay their taxes? And now the City wants a fee for using a credit card. Lou join me east of the Cow Island bridge where the parking is free and the food is great.

    • You should probably spend your time in Dubugue, that sounds more like your kind of place. You might be happier there and frankly so would we if you did.

        • If you object to Key West, don’t go, stay east of Cow Key if you prefer that. I for one am tired of people who complain about Key West. You sour puss people are the worst part of living in Key West. You don’t live here, but drive your car here and then complain about the traffic and about parking. It’s YOU who are causing the problem. Stay away and keep your negative attitudes elsewhere.

            • But tourists anren’t the ones complaining about Key West. They’re happy to come. It’s the locals who don’t live here but live upstream because it’s cheaper, or less crowded or any number of reason. It’s the same old person who fell in love with Key West for what ever reason, came on down and then started to complain about it. Yet they still want to come in to the Chart Room, have dinner at Blue Heaven, see a show, drive their oversized cars on our narrow streets, AND COMPLAIN. If you don’t like it here, go back to Troy or where ever it is you came from and let those of us who do live here, are willing to pay the price, enjoy what we have. We don’t need your negativity!

    • Key West is a cash cow and yet they always need more money. Makes you wonder why, but, the answer would seem pretty simple.

  6. Once I inherited a bunch of clean, expensive shirts from someone who heavily smoked in their house. I had to send them through the washer three times too stop them from stinking up my place.

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