At Mayflower Lounge, Patrons Draw Last Puff

"This is my last stinger here, I can tell you that," says T.J. Weiss in response to the Town and Country Lounge's decision to go smoke free. (By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)
By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 3, 2006

The lounge is paneled in dark mahogany, the ice clinks in 22-year-old scotch.

It's a quintessential Washington set piece, with power brokers shooting their cuffs and ladies in dark lipstick drinking stingers.

And overnight last week, the atmosphere in the clubby Town and Country Lounge, tucked inside the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue NW, changed with the placement of a tiny sign next to each dish of premium nuts bearing the news in elegant script: "As of Thursday June 1st, Town & Country will become a non-smoking lounge."

On Wednesday, the last day smoking was allowed in the lounge, the sense of fin de siecle was as thick as the smoke swirling around the room. Lobbyists, lawyers, consultants and other indomitable Washington types were discovering their posh lair would be one of the first in the nation's capital to adopt the city's smoking ban -- seven whole months before it takes effect.

No Marlboro. No menthol. No cigar.

The next night, those who swaggered into the lounge for their vodka martinis and Cohibas were reduced to whining when hit with the new rules.

"I can't believe this. I'm crushed," lamented Tom Knudsen, 55, as he twisted the no-smoking sign into mangled pieces. "This is the one place I do this."

The District follows Montgomery, Prince George's and Talbot counties in Maryland, which banned smoking in most restaurants and bars.

For about 300 regulars, news of the coming of the end arrived in an e-mail from bartender Sambonn Lek, known as Sam, who, in his crisp white dinner jacket, has been mixing drinks for 30 years.

"No More," he wrote below a photograph of a man whose head was enveloped in a shroud of cigar smoke.

"No More," by a picture of a blonde with blue eye shadow holding a cigarette daintily between her forefingers.

"No More," beside a photo of two ashtrays overflowing with cigarette and stogie butts.

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