Tobacco Bowl to butt out


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Smoke rings will soon be replaced by rising steam once an Iowa City business undergoes a concept change.

The Tobacco Bowl, a tobacco café located at 111 S. Dubuque Street, will close in mid-April. It will reopen in late July or early August as a brick-oven pizza parlor and video arcade.

Owner Thomas Connolly said the business is closing because of complaints from neighboring businesses and fears about stricter indoor smoking regulations.

“We are closing now because we’ve had some issues with the smell infiltrating into the adjoining properties,” Connolly said. “It infiltrated into some of the surrounding businesses and the residences upstairs.”

Employees at the adjoining clothing store Textiles declined to comment. The Daily Iowan was unable to reach Textiles owner Ritu Jain by the time of publication.

Connolly’s wife, Jodi, owns the other connected business, Buzz Salon. Thomas Connolly said there were no odor issues there.

Although renovations to contain the tobacco smell are possible, Connolly said, they were not worthwhile.

“I think we all know at some point, indoor smoking in any public venue is going to be outlawed, including cigar or tobacco use,” he said. “So you could spend the money making it suitable or making it impervious to the exterior world in regards to the smell, but then tomorrow or the next month, they could outlaw all indoor smoking, so that wasn’t a wise use of the money.”

Cab driver Nikita Kaim, 40, and UI junior Nathan Gartin — who were sitting together on Monday with laptops and cigarettes — were disappointed about the closing.

“It seriously bums me out,” Gartin said. “The Tobacco Bowl is what makes Iowa City so unique … The other coffee shops you go to, you get people with their ear-buds in, hanging out with themselves. Here, there’s a real sense of community.”

Gartin said he has met people at Tobacco Bowl who have changed his life and that the café is “legendary” in Ames, his hometown.

“I’ll probably leave town,” he said. “I’ve thought about transferring, and once I heard about Tobacco Bowl closing … it was just another nail in the coffin.”

Kaim said he is unsure where he will go once Tobacco Bowl closes.

“You can’t smoke in Java House, and the clientele there tends to be a little prissy,” Kaim said. “Starbucks? The quality of the drinks there and the prices are rather bad.  I think my options are limited, and I see that the whole thing has probably killed any semblance of socialization in this town, unless you want to get … drunk.”

They both said the closure reflects a “dying” downtown. The DI was unable to reach Downtown District officials for comment.

Connolly said the employees were notified roughly two weeks ago. He said they will either find new jobs or be offered jobs when the pizza parlor opens.

“I think we’ve had a great run with great people and unfortunately, like all things, all good things, it must come to an end,” he said. “We could put up a fight, and we could even possibly win, but that’s a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of resources.”

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