April 1, 2005
Enjoying a new St. Paul jazz venue sans smoke
The Twin Cities went smoke free in restaurants and bars yesterday! Actually, it's a bit more patchwork than that since Minneapolis and Hennepin county went smoke free indoors with no exceptions, while St. Paul and Ramsey county allow for some bars to be exempt. There's been a lot of talk about these ordinances, but as a non-smoker I really do think I'll be going out more often. It's been in the press a lot, but my favorite piece so far is the humorous "Smoker's Guide to the Twin Cities" presented by Hackey the Cigarette in this week's City Pages.
To celebrate, we went out to check out the scene at a new smoke free bar in downtown St. Paul. The French Press Jazz Café just opened in March in the Lowertown district. According to a write-up at JazzPolice.com, the owner, Kevin O'Neill, is a police officer in West St. Paul and is looking to provide another venue downtown for local musicians.
This jazz venue is a nice space with the lofty ceilings, hardwood floors, and exposed brick that makes this old warehouse district so great. The café part of it comes not only from the coffee and pastries it has to offer, but also the layout. The tables, chairs, and couch make it feel a lot like a coffee house. But make no mistake, it is primarily a bar - with a fairly good selection of wine and beer and an offering of appetizers. There is also a small lofted dining area over the bar and kitchen. The performance space is in one of the front corners by the windows, and the openness of the café allows the music to fill the space quite nicely. The atmosphere is very casual (in fact, I was a bit overdressed) and it was nice to see a mix of ages in the crowd.
I got the feeling that the French Press is still working out some kinks and wrinkles that come with a new place (like only having one wine bottle opener), but the staff were very friendly and welcoming, if not always organized. That's not a big deal to me in a bar, where I like to be left to converse and enjoy the music. The music was good, but a tad loud, and it was nice to come in on a night without a cover charge (usually $5) to check out the scene for the first time. To be honest, last night's performers, Cinco Latino, were a guitar-based jazz group, which really isn't our thing. It would be nice to go back to hear a more acoustic group or a piano-based group, which is more along where our tastes lie. As for the libation offerings, I liked that you could order 2 oz. "tastes" of wine, along with the regular glass or bottle. And they offered "flights" - 3 tastes from any of their 5 or 6 groupings, which are fun. All-in-all we liked the French Press and will be back again to check out other acts. And we really like the smoke free atmosphere! (As if you couldn't tell... )
I and a buddy went to Molly Quinn's on Thursday night. A great Irish place on E. Lake. The music is acousticm ore toward folk than jazz, but often a mix. And smoke-free was fabulous.
Posted by: Tim G. at April 4, 2005 3:46 PM
That is one thing I miss about the US. Non smoking restaurants & bars. In Germany, some plaes will have a non-smoking section, but they just don't get it. Sometimes is its 2 tables in the corner, where I inevitably have to walk through a massive cloud of smoke just to get there or if, say, i need to use the restroom. I won't get into the fact that a mere 3 feet of separation does not make the smoke suddenly disappear.
My favorite is how the Frankfurt airport is touted as a non-smoking airport. Yet at random areas there are smoking stations. Not enclosed or anything, just a place with a bunch of tables and ashtrays in the middle of the hallway. At least there you can get away from it (though not the smell of jet fuel...) since they are spaced fairly far apart, but still, on that long hike between the gate and passport control, you hit the smoke clouds. And at least once I was waiting for a plane, and the only available seats were near a smoking area.
Heck, at work, the smoking areas in my building are right in front of the restroom doors.
But at least the warning labels on cigarette packs are amusing (at least to me) in the EU. And they a re mega huge, too.
Posted by: Allan at April 22, 2005 12:27 AM
I represent www.lifeforcejazz.com, an organization and label dedicated to serving independent jazz artists and producers. Please review the link provided and let us know if you can help us with distribution.
Dawan Muhammad, CEO
Posted by: Dawan Muhammad at April 24, 2005 11:48 PM