Bandito’s burrito lounge has remained one of the few institutions that have allowed smoking inside their business here in RVA, and that will remain the case until Jan. 15 when the owner has decided to ban the practice.
“I think Richmond wants non-smoking now,” Said owner Sean McClain in an interview with RVAMag. “And I am ready to play ball.”
McClain, who has himself been a smoker for years, is himself on his 10,000th attempt to quit smoking, claims his business transitioning to non-smoking will help him quit. But he also stressed the change is a “business decision.”
“I think non-smokers and families will find [Bandito’s] more approachable to them.” McClain said.
Bandito’s has been open since 1997, and at its current Museum District location since 2002.
The joint restaurant and venue’s entirety had been a smoking area until Virginia legislation changed in 2009 citing that smoking areas must be “structurally separated from the non-smoking areas of the restaurant.”
After the new legislation, the state health department reported that about 88% of bars and restaurants went entirely smoke free.
McClain, who became the sole owner of the establishment around the same time the smoking ban was enacted, built a wall dividing sections of his restaurant to be able to continue his business as smoker friendly as possible.
“It was a smart move at the time,” he said said.
Even though the wall was built, patrons still had to pass through the smoking area to reach the non-smoking area and the bathrooms.
Those booking shows at the venue have championed the allowance of smoking inside.
“Bandito’s allows smoking in main room which is great for all the smokers that miss sharing their bad habits with strangers,” Reads an event page for the venue.
Though the indoor smoking area has long been an attractive feature for many, McClain hopes to cater to a wider audience with the transition.
“I hope my loyal, faithful smokers will understand,” McClain said. “I’ve got to cater to the future and family. I’m a restaurant not just a bar.”
Smoking in the main room of Bandito’s ends Jan. 15, until then smokers have a small window to keep their habits inside.