Matchbooks Aplenty Despite D.C. Smoking Ban

Washington Post Express
December 10, 2007
by Marc Zawel

IN THE PAST, WASHINGTON’S SINGLES used them to exchange phone numbers at crowded bars, while restaurants have offered them at hostess stands as mementos from an evening’s meal. But, nearly one year after the District‘s smoking ban went into effect, are matchbooks — excuse the pun — striking out?

“People are still looking for a light,” said Mick McGuire, the general manager of Veritas Wine Bar in Dupont Circle. “Our matches end up in kitchens, bathrooms and on fireplace mantles.” And that means continued visibility for his establishment long after patrons have finished their last glass of Chardonnay for the evening.

It seems to be much the same story at bars and restaurants around town. Jim Ball, the owner of L’Enfant Cafe in Adams Morgan, said that although most smokers don’t use matches, his cafe plans on continuing to offer matchbooks to patrons along with the variety of Belgian beers the place is known for. “We use them as a marketing tool. If someone has a good time here, they want some kind of memory from the night,” he said. “They are our calling card.”

Photo illustration by Chris Combs/ExpressZengo, the Latin-Asian hot spot in Gallery Place, has also continued to provide matches to its diners. And requests for them — they’re stocked behind the bar and up front at the hostess stand — have remained consistent since the smoking ban went into effect, according to Carlos Rodriguez, the restaurant’s general manager. Not surprisingly, Matchbox, the vintage pizza bistro around the corner, also has a matchbook for any diner who asks.

On Tuesday evening last week at Town Hall in Glover Park, where yellow-and-blue emblazoned matchbooks are readily available for the taking, D.C. resident Josh Goldstein was getting ready to retire for the night. “Whenever I’m here, I always take a couple home with me,” he said. “You could always use a light.”

Indeed, it seems that the District’s phillumenists — that is, those who collect matches — can breathe a sigh of relief. Despite the smoking ban, matchbooks are, apparently, here to stay.

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