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Jack Bettridge

Cigar Lounge Etiquette Primer

Posted: Jul 25, 2008 10:17am ET
About the only good that has come from the recent rounds of anti-smoking legislation has been the boon it has been for cigar retailers. Because most areas exempt cigar stores, smokers are driven to them when they want to cop a smoke in the middle of the day. And local retailers have responded in kind by setting up lounges for smokers who want to come in, buy a cigar and then enjoy it on premise at say, lunch time.

That's great! What I question, however, is the audacity of those customers who see lounges as public smoking emporiums. Do they really think it is the height of cigar aficionado etiquette to pop in to their local retailer with a cigar they have purchased online and suck up all the air? Come on!

Michael Herklots, who is the general manager of Davidoff's store at The Shops at Columbus Circle in New York City, has posted the following test in his smoking lounge that communicates the logic more succinctly than I can:

POP QUIZ:

CAN YOU PURCHASE A COFFEE IN STARBUCKS AND BRING IT TO BOUCHON TO DRINK?
NO

CAN YOU PURCHASE A SUBWAY COMBO MEAL AND EAT IT AT PER SE?
NO

CAN YOU BRING YOUR FAKE CUBAN CIGAR THAT YOU PURCHASED ONLINE TO A CIGAR STORE AND ENJOY IT?
NO

THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING OUR BUSINESS.  PLEASE ENJOY YOUR PURCHASE.


The store respectfully asks a $10 purchase for the use of the lounge and also asks that no cellular phones be used, which is another of my pet peeves. Good on 'em.

Comments   8 comment(s)

robert marro July 25, 2008 12:34pm ET

Jack, I agree with a stores policy to do so. I have frequented a cigar lounge in a store many times, brought my own cigar to smoke, but still would make a purchase of some item there.If we dont buy from them and support them, we will eventually lose one of the last sanctuaries to enjoy the precious leaf.


Jorge Armenteros — Princeton, NJ —  July 25, 2008 6:41pm ET

I like to think of Mr. Herklots as "America's Tobacconist" - as the GM of two extraordinary stores, his knowledge and passion represent the hight of the industry. With that said, I disagree. There are so few places left for cigar smokers nowadays that I consider it humanitarian aid to provide a peaceful place to smoke - even for cheapskates and pariahs...


Pete Noel — Medford, NY —  July 27, 2008 8:17am ET

Jack, this has always been an issue with me. Being on the road all day, I always try to find different places to smoke a cigar when I want to take a break. I have found that most places do not have a problem with outside cigars being smoked in their lounge as long as the person buys something from them (something I always do). Of course I'm not going to try this on my first visit. I'll buy something from them, smoke it and during conversation I will ask them about their policy. Even if they say they don't allow that, it doesn't mean I won't go there again...it's their store and their right. But most places are very relaxed as long as you're buying something from them. Granted, Davidoff might be different because they have their own line of cigars and I can agree with that. Plus they are a little more high-end than your average shop. BTW, the lounge in that store is great and I love their "no cell phone" policy as well!


Corey Lynch — Washington, DC —  July 28, 2008 11:44am ET

I agree with you completely there. I personally think it's disrespectful that you go to a cigar shop, smoke a cigar in their lounge, and not support them. The purpose of the lounge is to suppport us cigar smokers and our expensive habit. We, as consumers, should all return the favor.


Grady Lewis — Texas —  July 30, 2008 12:32am ET

I disagree...somewhat... I smoke whatever I am in the mood for on a particular day, whether I bought it at my local B&M or not. However, as my local B&M also serves drinks, I ALWAYS order something, even if its just a couple of sodas, and I always leave a good tip. I think to visit and smoke my outside cigars and not spend any money would be just plain rude. I think if my B&M didn't have other things for me to buy while I'm there, I'd be hard pressed to think it was "ok" to smoke one I brought with me.


Brian Fakharzadeh — Denver, CO —  July 30, 2008 8:49am ET

As a B&M owner, this subject is one that has perplexed me for some time. And all my theoretical questions were addressed in the pop quiz. My shop is roughly 2500 square feet, of which 1000 square feet is devoted to retail. Do the math; there's 1500 square feet of non-revenue creating space that I the owner have to pay for. And I'm happy to do it. I didn't get into the cigar business for the retail end per se, but for the lounge part; the part where I get to mingle with my customers and discuss cigars and life in general. I will always allow my regulars to smoke what they brought with them, because 9 times out of 10, I know they bought it from me earlier. But I've been bothered by those who have ALWAYS brought in their own "Cubans" to smoke in my lounge. Bothered to the point that I too am having a sign printed stating that the lounge is for paying customers only. Remember something as you go to your local lounge: that lounge space typically doesn't pay for itself, and if everyone were to bring internet purchased cigars to their local shop to enjoy, those havens will be gone sooner than later. And that doesn't benefit anyone.


Jack Bettridge July 30, 2008 10:27am ET

Grady's point is salient, but at the same time the purchase should equal what your cigar cost. To have a soda probably doesn't cut it given the math that Brian explains above. So it becomes a matter of policing how much someone has spent, and you can see how much of a drag that could get to be. Mike Herklots asks for a minimum $10 purchase. It would seem equitable to buy a $10 cigar and smoke something else that you brought (assuming it was unavailable in the store). Mike's policy is clearly not that and, of course, should be respected.


Jack Bettridge July 30, 2008 4:01pm ET

MIKE HERKLOTS emailed to clarify his position as follows:"just to be clear... "If someone wants to smoke a cigar they brought in, and they just made a purchase, hey no problem- After all, we're in the accommodation business as well as retail and hospitality. We're not SO strict that it's our cigars or nothing- but, we do certainly ask for A purchase. That's the point of the pop quiz We certainly don't ask our customers to keep their receipts handy. We certainly don't turn someone down who just purchased a cigar for $9.80. We're absolutely accommodating and considerate to being sure our CUSTOMERS are happy and have a great experience. THAT is the good life."



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