I live in a beautiful part of the world, in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California, a new center of some affluence between Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara. Within smoke-ring blowing distance of my house and office are three very nice places to sit and smoke cigars. The most recent oasis to open is NK Cigar Lounge in Westlake Village.
NK used to be just a large walk-in closet of a cigar store. Next door was a coffee bar with a branding and competition problem. The name of the coffee store had in it the three-letter word for a donkey that is often preceded by "jack." On top of that, a Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf were nearby. Too nearby.
Both the cigar store and the coffee bar were owned by Narinder Kumar, hence "NK" in NK Cigar Lounge. Kumar, as he is known to all, is a soft-spoken gentleman from India. He made the best espresso locally available outside of my own kitchen. Until he decided to close the coffee shop. It was losing money. Still, Kumar had a lease and he had to pay. He persuaded the landlord to allow the conversion of the coffee shop space.
"I liked this whole cigar thing so much that I decided to create the best cigar lounge I possibly could," Kumar, a novice smoker, explained. "I wanted to give cigar smokers the experience that they cannot get anywhere else in the area. That is why I have five big-screen TVs with separate seating arrangements so they can have their own thing going on without having to join everyone else."
Kumar asked some who visited his shop, and who were in business in the area, what they thought. Kumar says he got good advice. Get a liquor license. Put in a pool table. Get a barber to come in twice a week. Kumar wasted little time.
"It took me almost a month to open up the lounge. In the very near future, I'm adding private lockers and I'll always keep working on improving things."
Now, NK is a cigar lounge cum sports-cigar bar. There are those big-screen TVs showing all the games you want to see. The large room is divided into about four distinct areas where folks can sit in oversized leather chairs and couches and watch what they want. (There's a $10 charge for each cigar you want to smoke that you don't buy there. Call it a cover.)
In this part of the world, people pretty much want to watch only the Lakers on a regular basis, but when the US and Canada hockey teams played in the Olympics final this year, the place was jammed with fans waving little US flags. And my friend from Vancouver wearing a maple leaf flag cape. Everyone was smoking cigars, laughing, drinking beer and wine and sweating out the overtime. My caped friend was advised to be careful starting his car after Canada won.
NK has Sunday grill parties, monthly cigar events and is waiting to get its license to sell spirits on the premises. Currently, beer and wine can be served and there are frequent tastings. NK sells Heineken, Stella Artois, Newcastle and one Indian beer, Flying Horse Royal Lager. Bangalore's best, baby! The wines by the glass are constantly changing.
During the day, Monday through Friday, the lounge also serves as an office for some who need only Wi-Fi and a mobile phone and who want to smoke cigars all day while they broker mortgage or real estate deals. It's a great place to stop by and shoot a quick game of 9-ball, which inevitably turns into a longer series of challenges.
If you want to get some friends together and use the place for a friendly game of cards, that apparently can also be arranged, I'm told. You know, like hearts or pinochle. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more.
NK Cigar Lounge
2803 Agoura Road
Westlake Village, CA 91361
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