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Lil‘ Bo Smoke Free

Carol South - May 19th, 2008
At Lil’ Bo, all lunches all the time now have one thing in common: no smoking.
Starting April 30, owner Nancy Freund decided to make the change at the downtown Traverse City landmark, based on customer feedback.
The restaurant/tavern had already designated smoke-free Thursdays starting January 3, which have been very popular and helped lure evening crowds to enjoy dancing and music.
Looking to boost the lunch trade at the renovated establishment with an expanded menu, banning tobacco seemed a logical next step.
“A couple of people said they’d heard from bankers, real estate agents and others that our food is awesome but they don’t want to come here with a client and go back to the office smelling like an ash tray,” Freund said. “I think I’m blazing a trail because most bar owners are afraid of losing their business.”

Smoke-free sentiment is building and Northern Michigan is a hotbed of enthusiasm for the idea, said Lisa Danto, coordinator of the Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition. Traverse City has the highest number of restaurants and bars that are smoke-free in the state. Grand Traverse County is in the top 10 for the state.
On another front, Danto is also pleased that last week the Michigan Senate passed a bill that would protect Michigan workers in bars, casinos and restaurants from second-hand smoke by banning smoking. The bill now goes to the State House, and if approved, would require the immediate cessation of smoking across the state.
Progress around the state so far has rested on individual proprietors and customers.
“Usually, the majority of the ones that switch are doing it because of customer requests,” Danto noted. “There are enough customers out there demanding it to happen -- people are traveling from other places and they are saying, ‘This is what I’m used to and this is what I want and I’m not going to tolerate [smoking.]’”

Freund, who lived in the relatively smoke-free haven of California for many years, returned to Traverse City three years ago. She pitched in with her brother, Eddie, to help save the business that had been in the family since 1969. Her father, Geno, was failing and his children wanted to
continue his legacy.
In May of 2005, they closed Lil’ Bo for six months of extensive renovations. Freund began hoping for a no-smoking policy at the re-launch
“We’d done all the work, it was clean and fresh, but I was outvoted,” she recalled, noting that her brother, who is no longer involved, didn’t like the idea.
The idea flowered again last December at a media happy hour hosted by IPR-FM. Freelance photographer Gary Howe asked Freund if she had ever thought of going smoke-free for a day.
She decided this was a reasonable way to test the concept and chose Thursdays. The evening draws an older crowd and swing dancers, as well as some young people.
“It’s been great, people love it,” said Freund, who estimates a 90 percent positive reaction to smoke-free Thursdays. “Every week, somebody says, ‘Thank you for being smoke-free.’ They like being able to come in here and smell burgers and coffee instead of cigarettes.”
Lil’ Bo’s is located at 540 W. Front Street in Traverse City and is open Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 946-6935 or see

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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