Tobacco Bowl remains open

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | MAY 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Smoke rings will still rise — for now.

The Tobacco Bowl, a café at 111 S. Dubuque S., was set to close in mid-April. However, customers are still puffing away at cigarettes and sipping at coffee.

Store manager Luther Moss said the location will close once plans for renovations are sorted out with city officials. Owner Thomas Connolly plans to convert Tobacco Bowl into a pizza parlor and video arcade with a new kitchen and emergency exit after it was announced in March the long-time Iowa City staple would close.

“It’s just been perfectly normal zoning stuff that we have to work out,” Moss said. “We planned on an emergency exit. That was the plan, and we were about ready to go when someone went outside and noticed that we had a height difference between the floor inside and the wall outside.”

Moss said a new emergency exit is necessary when an updated kitchen is placed in the building’s back room.

A new closing date has yet to be determined.

“Every week, we’re trying to get it done by the end of the week,” Moss said. “When it happens, we’ll start telling people what our actual timetable is, but it’s not happening now.”

Tobacco Bowl’s impending closure drew outcry from many of its regulars, who say there is a sense of community not found in any other coffee shop in Iowa City.

Lev Lvovskiy, a UI Ph.D. student in economics, was seated with his laptop and a pack of cigarettes on Monday afternoon. He has been going to Tobacco Bowl for three years to study and play board games. He said he is glad to the shop is still open.

“I’m very happy with it because it influences my productivity very much, and it’s the perfect place to study,” he said.

However, he said the conversion is still on the back of his mind.

“I’m trying not to think about it,” he said. “I’ll come here until it’s closed.”

Connolly previously told The Daily Iowan the closing results from complaints from neighboring businesses and apartment residents about smoke odors and fears about stricter indoor smoking regulation. The business has been open for 25 years.

Renovations to contain the odor are possible, but Connolly does not believe they are worthwhile.
Employees were notified in mid-March. Connolly said they will either be offered new jobs at the pizza parlor or will find new jobs.

For now, tobacco smoke will swirl around inside until everything is in place for it to be replaced by pizza steam.

“We hope to get it figured out by the end of the week, but I’ve been saying that every week for the past few weeks,” Moss said.

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