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« Wednesday, March 10th, 2010—Bar 59 | Main | Monday, March 8th, 2010—Bar 57 »

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010—Bar 58

Day 58—Monday, March 8th

On March 30, 2003, New York City started banning smoking in bars.
I thought this was a really stupid and puritanical idea back then and I still do today. Banning cigarettes in a bar is like banning blowjobs in a whorehouse, it just doesn’t make sense. People are still going to smoke, but now they have to stand outside and dirty up the sidewalks with their cigarette butts. Plus now cigarettes are right around 10 bucks a pack with a good portion of that price tag going to the government. I’m okay with what’s commonly referred to as a “sin tax,” but then at least let smokers smoke in bars. It’s not like bars are a health club or something. One argument is that it’s unhealthy for bartenders who don’t smoke. Well, you know what? There’s a lot of shit I don’t like about my job, but that’s why they give me a paycheck. If you’re a bartender who doesn’t want to breath in a little second-hand smoke, then go work at Starbucks and shut the fuck up.

Okay, this little tirade leads up to a bar that has successfully escaped this ridiculous ban. The bar is called Karma and it was a a hookah bar back in 1993, so since it was already established as a place where you could smoke, it escaped the ban. Yeah, I don’t really get it either, but the bar looks cool from what I’ve seen on the internet, so let’s go check it out. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!

Here we are Karma bar. Unlike most bars there's no one standing outside smoking here, because...

Smoking is permitted here! Woo hoo...cough, cough.

The bar has a dark, yet friendly vibe as you enter it.

Bree was the friendly bartender on duty and she happily served up the first beer of the evening.

Gleb was seated next to me at the bar and he happily puffed away. He lives in Hoboken, but comes to Karma for the good vibes at the bar and for the smoking-friendly atmosphere.

Lindsey was in the DJ booth asking trivia questions. Do you know who the first actor to be nominated for an academy award after he died was? Neither did I.

There's ornate brass hookahs all around the bar and you can buy tobacco to smoke from them. Most people this night were opting for their own cigarettes though.

Danny and Saskia were cuddling on the couch in the comfortable front room lounge.

Original and local artwork line the brick walls at Karma.

Here's Andrew and Kristina relaxing on a couch opposite the bar.

More original artwork featuring nudity and a cigarette. Who could ask for anything more?

Deborah and Pierre were seated to my right at the bar and I had a nice conversation with them. I learned that Pierre is a drummer, producer and a studio engineer. Check out his website here: swing hits.

I present a relic from the past, a full ashtray in a bar!

Kim and Dan were having fun in the comfy front room.

Here's the intimate back room at Karma. Lots of hookahs and this guy is wondering why I'm taking photos.

The room in the basement is a little funkier and a lot louder.

In fact it was so loud I asked these two working behind the bar to write their names down. I think my notes say Kirl and Brian, I hope I didn't goof your names up!

The crowd downstairs at Karma.

Another smoking-friendly female painting on the wall.

A video of Gleb lighting up at the bar. Cheers, Gleb and goodnight everybody!


The sign on the door says it all: “Smoking Permitted.” Beautiful, kind of like kicking Mayor Bloomberg in the balls and who hasn’t wanted to do that at one time or another.

It’s extremely dark in Karma and when you’re eyes finally adjust you'll see the candle-lit bar and you may think you just walked into a decadent, intimate and classy nightclub in the Middle East. The low-lit lighting has a red tinge to it and there are brass hookahs on each table in front of the velvet couches and chairs in the front and lining the walls. opposite the bar One item which is rarely seen in New York is ashtrays, which are liberally placed around the bar, because in addition to hookah’s you can smoke cigarettes in here. Original artwork hangs on the brick walls and there’s a relaxed atmosphere with friendly bartenders and patrons.

Even if you don’t smoke, you don’t need to worry about smoke getting in your eyes once you’re inside Karma. The bar utilizes a state of the art Biozone air purification system that oxidizes the smoke in the air leaving the bar virtually smoke free, even though the majority of the crowd are puffing away like hyperactive chimneys.

There’s a smaller, louder lounge downstairs, with a full bar, velvet benches and of course, more brass hookahs and ashtrays.  On Tuesday’s they host a weekly gay night party there where well drinks are four bucks all night long.

Karma offers six varieties each of bottled and draft beer including, Blue Moon, Sam Adams, Budweiser and Guiness. They have a small wine list and a dozen specialty cocktails that go for 10 dollars apiece. Karma has 18 flavored shots of booze that run from four to ten bucks. Kind of pricey for a shot, but with names like, Sex With An Alligator, Three-Legged Monkey and Black Death, it’s tempting to try one or two if you’re there on payday.

Fire one up at Karma and blaze on!

51 1st Ave. (near 3rd St.)

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Reader Comments (7)

Good find! Nice to know that at least one bar hasn't buckled to this stupid law! Cool bar.

March 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarfly

I am also a 3 legged monkey.

March 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStroke My 3rd Leg

I'm not a smoker, nor am I a three-legged monkey, but it still looks like a nice place. And, by the way, the first actor to be nominated for an Academy Award after he died was James Dean...who was not only a smoker, but also (supposedly) dated both Rogers Brackett and Pier Angeli, whose names combine to create "Rogetelipi," which loosely translates (in German) to mean "the monkey of the three legs." And scene.

March 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBiff

Ding ding ding! And we have a winner! Don Pardo tell Biff what gifts she's won...Don...oh, Don...I think Don went out for a drink, we'll get back to you Bifferoonie!

March 9, 2010 | Registered Commenter365 Beers

Merci beaucoup Marty to stand up for smokers !!! :D we got the law in 2006 in France... That's sucks yes! so I guess I should go there to enjoy the old time!! (yeeaaaah Jason.... I know! I know! I can hear your "STOP SMOKIIIING" from here... don't get Mad! I will stop!! )
It was a social fight when the law came out, between happy people and pissef off smokers. Some long phylosophical speech were hanging up in bars, and this typical stupid question from anti-smokers was always : "Why do you smoke?" ..... AHHHHH I hate this question!!!
I use to answer .... "Because I don't want to die alone, I'm looking for a friendly cancer who would love me just before to know agony!" (Oh Oh... Ok, here I gonna get in trouble with my spoon!)
so Jason : what about to drink 2 or 3 beers after reading that? uh? you don't drink enough and it's very very bad for you!! also I was thinking about to start to be a good woman and to cook, to clean, and to shut up when you spank my ass while making the dishes :D so what do you think about mister anti-smoker? Can I get a delay to stop smoking? at least until 2012 and see what happens!! lol ;)

I was a ciggerette girl in san francisco when their law went into affect.. really sucked when all i could sell on my tray was candy.. then i needed a new line of work..
As good as it was for my asthma it sucked for the bars...

March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGidget

Wow, smoking in bars, the good old days! Marty, you are making me want to go out for a drink!! -Gina

March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGina

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