It's not easy for a bar to ban smoking, but providing a gazebo might help.
Joe Lee, the owner of the General Lee's bar in Chickasha said it was actually a vape user that helped solidify his decision.
A patron came in with an e-vape and blew a huge cloud. Lee said he found it so obnoxious that he was sure he wanted to move all nicotine-infused-smog outside.
Of course, there were other reasons. The bar almost burned down after a smoker used a knothole in the bathroom to (almost) extinguish a cigarette.
Lee announced the upcoming smoking ban last June and put the policy into place after Labor Day the same year.
However, the decision to make the bar smoke-free came with sacrifices. Lee said about two thirds of his customer base left. Moreover, he has spent about $9,000 so far furnishing an outdoor smoking area "just so people can smoke."
The area includes a big porch that will be screened in as well as a gazebo. Lee said he plans to add lighting, speakers and a heater for the winter. Patrons are able to take their drinks and cigarettes to the designated, fenced-in area.
Lee said there have been plenty of positives. Banning smoking inside has helped cut maintenance costs. When people smoked inside the bar, the filters had to be changed every two weeks, which added up over time. The nicotine and tar got on everything, including the jukebox, cash register and even the felt on the pool table, he said.
Moreover, while some customers have taken their desire to smoke indoors elsewhere, Lee said a few people have started coming to General Lee's for the smoke-free environment.
Lee understands the addiction to nicotine is difficult for many smokers to overcome.
He was a smoker for decades before he quit on Jan. 10, 2016. Lee gave up cigarettes cold turkey and was able to claim six months nicotine-free on his birthday that June.
However, Lee did not go unscathed from his years of smoking. He was diagnosed with COPD shortly after quitting. However, Lee said he is coping with the diagnosis.
Lee has lost many relatives to smoking-related illnesses. This includes his mother, Lee Wilson, the bar's previous owner and namesake. Wilson, who was the family matriarch, earned the nickname "General." A Missouri native, Wilson bought the bar in 1989 after moving to Chickasha from California.
General Lee's will be celebrating 30 years in Chickasha with a pool tournament starting June 5. The tournaments will take place every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. leading up to a final playoff and customer appreciation day in mid-September.
General Lee's is located at 4302 S. 4th St. in Chickasha.