Facing the oncoming traffic on the southbound side of Interstate 35 just south of Denton is a billboard that features the wide-eyed face of an innocent little boy. Next to him is a rather blunt statement: "Not everyone can avoid secondhand smoke."
Clearly, the sign worked on Dan Mojica, owner of the venerable Dan's Silverleaf venue. His club is now smoke-free for all shows — at least on its inside portion.
"It used to be that, whenever there was a show that was not free, if people were paying a cover charge to come see it, we would make it a non-smoking show," Mojica says. "But we were still getting some complaints about happy hour and not being able to sit inside. So we're just going with no smoking inside."
This news shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to the recent ratcheting up of no-smoking ordinances across the metroplex and the rest of the state. It could be that consumers are simply getting used to breathing in clean air — yes, even in Denton, one of the last remaining strongholds without a citywide ban on smoking indoors.
"Denton certainly is unique because it seems to be one of the bastions of smoking anywhere," Mojica says. "I travel the state pretty much all over, and we do seem to be one of the only places that still allows smoking inside venues."
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In many ways, Mojica's decision to enact the ban was his way of preempting what he sees as inevitable. He believes a statewide ban is sure to come within a year or two. But, more than anything, his action was a commercial one.
"It's a free-market decision," he says. "We get lots and lots of requests. The number of people who don't smoke and are put off by it far outweigh the number of smokers, and we're just trying to make it as comfortable and enjoyable an experience as possible."
It isn't as if smoking is barred altogether at Dan's, though: You can still light up a cigarette on the back patio, which is rather large and features monitors that screen closed-circuit live images of the performers on stage. With these outlets still in place, Mojica simply believes that the time has come to accept the trend toward thinking of smoking as an encroachment on the rights of others.
"We're just trying to stay ahead of the curve," Mojica says. "If people can't smoke in bars in Dublin and New York City and places as urbane as those, it's just a matter of time before they can't smoke here."