Why Raytown is one of the last American suburbs where you can still smoke in bars

Inside Irish Pub House in Raytown. This friendly and low-key bar inside a former Pizza Hut still allows smoking indoors, which attracts smokers from all over the area/Martin Cizmar

Why can you still smoke in Raytown bars?

“One word: America,” says Mayor Michael McDonough. “Just kidding—I told myself I was going to come right out of the chute with that.”

McDonough is joking. But like any truly funny joke, there’s some truth.

Raytown and Blue Springs are some of the last parts of a major metropolitan area that still allow smoking. Our nation’s rich patchwork of local laws makes it impossible to say they’re alone, but it’s safe to say there are very few places, outside rural areas in the south, where you can still smack a Marlboro hardpack on the bartop then pull one out and light up.

McDonough has served as the city’s mayor since 2015 but he’s lived in Raytown his whole life, and remembers 2009, when the issue of a smoking ban came before the non-partisan city council.

There was, he says, “a lot of angst and a lot of anger, about the city trying to overreach.”

“For me, personally, I think it should be the owners that make that decision,” he says. “You don’t have to tell people that have a business license how to run their business. I’ve had some people say to me, ‘Well that sounds kind of backward.’ Well, that depends on your opinion. I have the opinion that people should have the freedom to do things like that if they wish, but they also have to be responsible.”

Raytown is, the mayor notes, very diverse in political views, race, and age. “It’s a very interesting ten square miles. Which is why I’m proud to be the mayor.”

The best way to keep diverse Raytonians getting along is to let them make their own decisions, the Mayor says, himself a former smoker.

“Do I personally wish they would all go non-smoking? Sure. But am I offended? No, otherwise I wouldn’t go into them,” he says. “That’s kind of how Raytown is. We’re more about personal freedoms here than some places. If I don’t feel like putting up with smoke I go to Naughty Pine or to the brewery. Or I go to the bar at Hyvee—which sounds weird, but they’ve got some pretty good specials and they’ve got lots of TVs, it’s just weird because it’s in a grocery store.”

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