Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Pivovarský Klub Goes Nonsmoking


This weekend, on the first day of spring, something remarkable happened at one of Prague’s favorite destinations for beer lovers: the staff at Pivovarský klub put away the ashtrays for the last time.

So why is a nonsmoking pub in Prague such a big deal?

In part because it seems to mark a tipping point in the pub culture here. Over 26% of Czechs smoke, and cigarettes have long been ubiquitous in bars here. Last year, an attempt to ban smoking in public areas was rejected by parliament. As Radio Prague reported at the time, “Critics of the smoking ban claim that it would hurt restaurants and bar owners.”

But some customers — and pub owners — have started to prefer nonsmoking establishments. Just as I was finishing Good Beer Guide Prague & the Czech Republic in early 2007, I was surprised by the newly opened Moritz in Olomouc, both because of their great beers and because they were the first nonsmoking brewpub I’d found in the entire country. And yet instead of starving for business, as the opponents of the smoking ban would have argued, Moritz was so busy when I visited it was forced to turn away customers. The more recent Bar Chýše, which serves craft beers from Klášterní pivovar Strahov, takes great pride in noting that it is the first nonsmoking bar in Prague’s Čimice neighborhood.

As such, Pivovarský klub won’t be the first to go nonsmoking. But it is certainly one of the highest-profile destinations to do so, especially for beer lovers, and it is conceivable that this could inspire other pub owners to do the same. The owners of one well-loved Prague brewpub told me they weren’t against the Czech parliament’s smoking ban — they certainly didn’t think it would harm their business — but they probably wouldn’t go nonsmoking themselves without such a law.

That was a couple of years ago; Pivovarský klub’s decision to cut the smoke might have changed things. Many bar owners here look to Pivovarský klub for inspiration, and due to its tastings, beer menus and other special events, the pub remains the focal point for beer culture in Prague. Now it’s not just that some Czech beer bars are nonsmoking, but rather that one of the biggest and the best is.

Smoking may have long been a part of Czech beer culture, but it wasn’t always that way: Prague’s U Fleků pub predates the arrival of tobacco in Europe by at least 60 years, while U Medvídků was a nonsmoking establishment for a century or more. So you could call a smoke-free pub in Prague an unusual and exciting new development. Or you could think of it as a return to the way things used to be.


Richter Brewery’s Polotmavý Weißbier 13°


Kout na Šumavě in the Dancing Building


  1. I have never really been bothered by smokey pubs, but the thought of going to PK and only smelling of booze when I get home is fantastic! I wonder if there was any trace of irony in having a rauchbier on tap the day they ditch smoking?

  2. Guff

    My local, Lokalblok, has recently relegated all the smokers to the front of the bar and as soon as the ‘smoking room’ is constructed, they will be banished to a standing only room off the side of the garden.

  3. That’s great news. I always found it slightly incongruous that Lokalblok was filled with people who cared about fitness and exercise, and yet it was one of the smokiest pubs in town. Last time I went climbing it was at the two places in Holesovice, just across from Vystaviste. They’re pretty smoky too…

  4. David Hughes

    Is a No Smoking Ban about to become law in prague ?

    On a completly diffrent subject Has there been another brew pub opened in Prague or surrounding area since Pivovar Basta ? rumers surfacing in UK that this is so.

    David Hughes

  5. Hi David,

    There’s no smoking ban visible on the horizon yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens in a few years. But it’s interesting that restaurants and pubs that voluntarily go non-smoking — like Pivoklub — are successful. In that case, maybe there’s no need for a legal ban.

    There’s one new brewpub that opened after Bašta in Prague, called Pražský most u Valšů: It has a limited offering of its own beers. There’s a rumor that the folks from Richter brewery are going to open a new brewpub sometime soon in the south of Prague, but it hasn’t happened yet.


  6. Pivovarský klub going non-smoking was a great and wonderful surprise. Last time my friends and I were there it wasn’t. Indeed, we couldn’t get a table anywhere as it was full of Russian tourists, most smoking like chimneys! The owner really needs to expand and / or open a third establishment.

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