Story by Lissette Minges, TSET Healthy Living Program Prevention Specialist, OSU Prevention Programs
Deciding to take both of their bars smoke-free was not something the Cervantes family took lightly, and when it came down to it, it was not a decision they made only for themselves. Javi and Chelsea Cervantes moved to Stillwater for the first time in 2003 from Ponca City, OK where they both grew up. They moved to Broken Arrow, OK in 2008 where Javi managed a Starbucks before returning back to what they feel is home. Having a familial history of running restaurants dating back to his grandfather, Javi always felt like his business ideas would be successful, but was unable to utilize them in a corporate setting. With an opportunity to utilize Javi’s entrepreneurial mind in the bar industry, he moved his family back to Stillwater in 2010 to manage College Bar. As the managers of College Bar, Javi and Chelsea did their research on whether or not they were making the right decision in taking the bar smoke-free. Being smoke-free on Washington Street, “The Strip”, in Stillwater was not a popular decision in the bar industry. Javi and Chelsea say their goal, as now owners of College Bar and sTone WALL, is not to be like everyone else.
In August 2016, they made the difficult, yet well thought out, decision to take College Bar smoke-free utilizing TSET’s Free The Night campaign. Being the first smoke-free bar on “The Strip” was an unknown territory, but they made the decision because they felt it was the best for their customers. In deciding to go smoke-free they developed a plan for those patrons who do smoke to not lose their place within their establishment if a line develops outside. When this happens, the patron inside simply gives their ID to the doorman, and goes outside to smoke their cigarette. Upon entering they are able to bypass the line and re-enter with no issues. This way they feel their smoking patrons know they are being taken care of as well as everyone else. Since going smoke-free, the impact has been much better than they would have imagined. In fact, they feel like it has made it better. It has created a culture within the bar where they do not feel they need to tell new patrons it is non-smoking. Everyone who comes to the bar “just knows.” When someone does light a cigarette inside the bar, it is not the employees, Javi, or Chelsea who tell them it’s non-smoking. It is often other patrons who explain that there is no smoking inside the bar. It’s a lifestyle choice that they feel has made their business better. So much so, they are deciding to take sTone WALL smoke-free as well.
Purchasing Stonewall Tavern from Javi’s brother in December 2017, Javi and Chelsea decided it “just makes sense” to have it be non-smoking as well. They are set to become smoke-free indoors in March 2018, after Spring Break. They do not want their patrons who smoke to feel they are not wanted at the bar, and need time to set up a comfortable outdoor atmosphere due to the cold months. Currently, they have “smoke eaters” for the indoor portion of the bar to reduce the amount of smoke inside. After the change to smoke-free, this will be a maintenance expense they will no longer have to think about.
There are many things Javi and Chelsea do differently at their bar locations. Javi says they want to take care of their patrons, and their patrons become family. They do not care about what is popular, but care more about the experiences the people who visit their bars are having. We “take care of the people here”, and it is their sole focus of bar ownership. They want to “be role models for the community” of people coming to their bar. Having four children and raising their family in Stillwater, they want to make an improvement in what they are doing. A way Javi and Chelsea are doing this is raising awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault and its relation to alcohol. Every Monday, at College Bar, they host a Bingo night where funds are raised for Wings of Hope Domestic Violence Services. They want the college kids in Stillwater to know the truth about these incidents and how alcohol cannot be used as an excuse. “Every week these college kids come in here and donate their money to the cause”, and it is making a difference.
The Cervantes family utilized TSET’s program “Free The Night” to become smoke-free at College Bar, and intend to utilize it again for sTone Wall. According to the TEST website, “Free The Night is a statewide campaign in Oklahoma dedicated to supporting voluntary policy for smoke-free bars and clubs. Free The Night engages in community outreach to bar owners and patrons to inform them about the benefits of smoke-free air, as well as supporting bar owners who are interested in making their bar or club smoke-free.”