The last time I visited Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton IL (map), in 1998 or 1099, it was filled with smoke. Yesterday my fiancé and I had lunch there, his first time. Owner Eddie Sholar was a vocal opponent of the Illinois smoking ban that started on January 1, 2008.
Eddie Sholar doesn’t like all this talk about smoking bans. In his Alton bar, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air, about half the customers smoke. But he said they probably won’t quit if the politicians in Springfield enact a statewide ban. They’ll just drink someplace else. “They’re not going to come to a place where they can’t smoke, if other places are allowing it. If you have Missouri, where you can, and Illinois, where you can’t, they’re not going to come some place where they can’t do what they want to do,” Sholar said. The talk in Springfield this week was about a statewide smoking ban, which would replace Illinois’ six-week-old law that lets local governments outlaw smoking on their own. (Daily Chronicle)
Months after the ban started:
At Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton, one of the state’s busiest bars, the owners spent some $800,000 to build an outdoor facility resembling an old-time ballpark. The serving bar sits beneath an overhang. In winter, massive heaters blow warm air on the patrons, many of them smokers.
“I would never credit this stupid smoking law, but it certainly has helped our business,” said Ed Sholar Jr., whose family owns the bar. (Chicago Tribune)
Nearly a million dollars for a patio? Once you see what was built you’ll understand why it cost so much. The street was moved to make room for the outdoor soon. Basically they built a massive addition to the building, the translucent roof is raised enough to make it outdoors — technically. Fans and heaters keep the temperature more hospitable than the parking lot. This design also make it easy to ensure all guests pass through the front door, have proper ID, and are 21 years old. After six years of twice the seating capacity I wonder how they feel about the smoking ban, business is still great but they likely took on debt to fund the outdoor space.
We sat indoors, but walked through the outdoor room when we left. It was noticeably smokey, despite the efforts to minimize it. I wouldn’t sit there, but thankfully the inside is smoke-free. UrbanSpoon has 30 reviews and none mention smoking. Yelp has 125 reviews, 19 mention smoke/smoking, the relevant parts from each:
- now that the inside is non-smoking, it’s more crowded outside…and that’s where the real action is
- We sat outside (under an awning) but couldn’t smell any smoke b/c of the efficient set-up of fans circulating the air.
- It’s smoke free inside, but there’s now a HUGE smoking area outside, complete with giant heaters for the winter months, and another bar.
- This place has a lot of history and a lot of character, and it’s much nicer now that smoking in indoor restaurants has been banned in Illinois.
- Not a fan at all. The outside is still smoking and with the canopy the smoke [sic] is unbearable. Went here for a friend’s birthday party to listen to his favorite band and I had to leave after an hour the smoke was so bad.
- I have only been once in the evening to enjoy the music and it was a great time, but since IL is smoke free now, I am a pretty big fan of Sunday lunches at Fast Eddies.
- Yeah it doesn’t look like much inside, but I enjoy all the different areas you can sit inside and the new patio is nice. Well, actually I dont know it anyother way. Sucks that thats where people have to smoke, but if I can eat unhealthy amounts of food and wreck my body in that way, then let people screw their lungs up all they want. Right?
- Love this place. Great live bands, cheap cheap CHEAP food and drink. Only bad is all the smoke and sometimes a tad rough crowd. Will always be a fan. Bring cash bc no credit cards are accepted.
- The patio was crowded. A large cloud of smoke lingered around the ceiling and it looked like everything was clouded by a haze. We stayed inside but somehow I still smelled like smoke when I left.
- I’d say my favorite part is that the inside is smoke free. I love that there’s still a nice outside area, but being able to breathe indoors is always a plus.
- Awesome place, bring friends. Can get noisy, so if you don’t like crowds or noise, stay away. No smoking indoors, which is good, but smoking allowed on back covered patio. 2 bars outside, 2 inside.
- They have a nice outdoor area, which in the winter is enclosed with a tent but not really heated much… and they seem to be defying IL law by allowing people to smoke in the outdoor area (yes, it’s illegal to allow it outdoors even).
- As for the crowd at Eddies, let’s just say it’s ermmm … interesting and eclectic. LOTS of bikers, lots of smokers, and lots of loud types. To call it a rough crowd seems suitable, to me. It’s just not the kind of place most who aren’t into A) smoking, B) drinking of cheap liquor (house drinks are made with the cheapest stuff you can find … Juarez tequila for margaritas (GAG), C) hanging with bikers, or D) eating lower quality food to save yourself a buck.
- It’s almost always a good time at Fast Eddie’s. They have the nice outdoor area for people to be able to smoke and watch TV without freezing, live bands all the time, and great prices on good bar food.
- Good concept, like the casual atmosphere. Their covered patio is a neat idea. The cover band was very good, the food is ok and cheap. Drinks weren’t too expensive and service was prompt and fun to interact with. Coming from an area with no inside smoking though, this place was horrible for that.
- Cheapest bar food ever. The fact that it’s now smoke free makes me want to go to this place more and more often, but it’s hard to really justify going all the way out there just for 1$ brats and burgers and their amazing steak on a stick… no wait… it isn’t.
- Been to Fast Eddies many times and never been disappointed. Good food, cold beer, low prices. Non smoking inside is great.
- Its one step up from a dive bar. Its smoke free inside which makes it better.
- I go there because my friends enjoy the place. the outdoor area is covered with a plastic sheet which makes you feel like ur trapped in a glad bag in the hot sun with smokers all around you! not a good feeling or smell for your clothes! the floor outdoors is filthy, people just throw there peel n eat shells from the shrimp on the hot asphalt, like they were peanut shells. talk bout a great smell along with cig smoke! the only thing worth going for is the VERY COLD high priced beer.
Mixed reviews of the outdoor area, but all are happy the indoor space is smoke-free.
The outdoor area is a smokey area, likely damaging to the servers who work there. However, the smoke-free interior allows those servers who’re concerned about second-hand smoke to continue working without having to take health risks. Customers can experience Fast Eddie’s without having to pass through the smokey outdoor area.
Compromises are just that.
– Steve Patterson