The actor, well-enough known for even me to recognize him despite his being shorter than you’d expect (all of them seem to be shorter than you’d expect) is trying to figure out which cigars to buy.
“Is that one good?” the actor asks. In addition to noticing that he’s shorter than you’d expect, he’s also barefoot. Not just in the store, but he walks around Los Angeles that way.
“These are great,” explains Taz Ahmadi, the owner of V Cut, a cigar store and lounge on a rejuvenated part of Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. “If you don’t like them, bring them back,” he tells the actor.
When the actor leaves, I introduce myself to Ahmadi and ask if a lot of show business people come in to the store.
“Oh, you recognized him?” Ahmadi asks. “Yeah, we get quite a few. They feel comfortable here because no one bothers them. They can relax here.”
Everyone in the store, which doubles as a lounge, seems relaxed. European soccer is on the one TV on the wall. Not much else decorates the store except for some cigar accessories. There are seats, some with tables, for about 20. And Wi-Fi. You got to have Wi-Fi in L.A. so people can polish their screenplays.
V Cut is typical of the Los Angeles cigar-smoking sanctuary in many ways. The humidor is full of the great cigars you’d expect to find in a metropolis. Soft drinks are available, and food and great espresso are just a phone call away. (This was the best espresso I’ve had in any L.A. cigar lounge.) V Cut’s owners opened V Café a couple of doors down and it serves as the commissary for the cigar lounge’s patrons.
The distinctions at V Cut are Ahmadi and the bonhomie. Ahmadi is a 32-year old Afghan immigrant who grew up in L.A. He and some of his brothers opened V Cut in 1997. V Cut attracts perhaps the most diverse mix of Angelenos seen in cigar lounges around the city. Arabs and Jews, African-Americans, men and women all seem to be intent on enjoying their cigars. And they are all known to Ahmadi by name.
The discussions range from the latest sneaker design the footwear entrepreneur is promoting to a reminiscence of translating for U.S. Marines in Afghanistan.
A young man in a wheelchair rolls up to Ahmadi at the counter and asks for a lighter. He restarts his cigar and leaves the torch, then rolls back to his spot next to a woman, also smoking. Minutes later, the man rolls up again and asks for a light. This happens twice more before Ahmadi and I start joking with the man. I give him my lighter, not a torch.
“Use a real lighter,” I say. He allows me to light what remains of his cigar and smiles, seemingly happy to be gently chided for his bad luck with fire on this day.
The other distinction is that V Cut has parking! This is particularly valuable on the nights that live jazz is featured in the lounge.
“We have live jazz about once a month, on Wednesdays,” Ahmadi explains. “We get a big crowd on those nights.”
If you live in L.A. or just happen to be visiting, you’ll experience some kind of bad traffic during some part of your day. Some of us have created a set of way-stations where we can stop and chill out until the traffic subsides. Sometimes it’s a bar or coffee joint. Now, though, I’ve got a series of cigar-friendly spots about five miles from one another that, if I need to take a break, welcome my visit.
And yes, they all have Wi-Fi.
Alejandro Benes lives and works in Southern California and is NOT writing a screenplay.
V Cut Smoke Shop & Lounge
8172 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Mon thru Sat: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
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