RYAN BAKKEN: An Extra End to smokingFor 37 years, Grafton bar owner allowed smoking, but now says ‘times have change’
A smoke-free bar isn’t exactly a proven business plan here. “Three tried it. All three failed miserably,” Extra End owner John Aasand said Monday. Despite that history, starting March 1, Aasand will be the fourth Grafton bar owner to give it a whirl. He’s confident the going-out-of-business streak will be snapped.
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
GRAFTON — A smoke-free bar isn’t exactly a proven business plan here.
“Three tried it. All three failed miserably,” Extra End owner John Aasand said Monday.
Despite that history, starting March 1, Aasand will be the fourth Grafton bar owner to give it a whirl. He’s confident the going-out-of-business streak will be snapped.
“Times have changed,” he said.
One change is bar traffic. Because of a shrinking population and stricter driving laws, his business has declined by about a third since 2000. He believes a smoke-free Extra End will attract more customers than it will drive away.
“Smokers are no longer the majority in a bar; they’re the minority,” Aasand said. “Because people aren’t around smoke as much, it irritates them more. And, they’ve become more vocal about it.
“If all of the people who have called to congratulate me on our decision become customers, the decision will definitely help me.”
Another societal change, Aasand said, is that women make more decisions than they did a generation or two earlier. And women don’t like smoke in their hair and clothes.
“Women have more of a say these days,” he said. “For instance, my wife (Debbie) and I have bought six cars. On the first four, she had no say. Guess who picked the last two?”
Like many sports bar owners, Aasand is a character who enjoys the smack-talking give-and-take with customers. His booming voice is a snug fit with his oversized personality. He’s probably best known as a member of the Grafton curling team that apparently had won the 1972 world title before a teammate’s leap for joy moved a stone.
The mishap prompted officials to order an extra end, which ended up in a loss, but also an appropriate name for the bar he and Debbie bought 37 years ago. The bar has been around so long, he said, “that we had our own mailman before ‘Cheers’ did.”
But a bar, like all businesses, needs to change with the times.
“Back then, we used to appease the smokers,” he said. “They were the majority. But every year, smokers have become fewer and fewer. They’re maybe 20 percent of our customers now.”
So, his bottom line is his ledger’s bottom line. Even though he eagerly is joining the smoke-free movement, he believes participation should be voluntary.
“I don’t favor a smoking ban on bars,” he said. “I don’t tell others how to run their businesses, so I don’t want others telling me how to run mine.”
He said there is “no going back” to a smoking bar. It’s swim or sink, like the other three bars did.
With the changing times, he’s confident he’ll be swimming with newcomers joining his regulars.
“Smokers are still welcome here,” he said. “They just can’t smoke.”
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send email to email@example.com.