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Cigar Lounges: A Smoker's Last Refuge

Cigar shops are among the few places that a cigar smoker can call home
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Richard Branson, Sept/Oct 2007

(continued from page 4)

Richard Galdieri, owner of Las Vegas Cigar Co., has a tiny shop on the Strip that has "no room for anything," but his bigger shop, five miles from the Strip, has plenty of space for smokers.

"I have a 60-inch big-screen TV, a pool table, shuffleboard," says Galdieri. On fight nights he draws a crowd. In addition to big-name brands such as Fuente and Ashton, Galdieri sells his own house brand, which he has made at his factory in the Dominican Republic.

Cigar shops in the city center of Chicago also tend towards the miniscule: Jack Schwartz Importer has a few chairs in the store and Up Down Tobacco has no lounge at all. Probably the largest smoking lounge in Chicago is the smallish one inside massive Iwan Reis & Co.

About 35 miles north of the Chicago loop in Libertyville is Cigars & More, which Julie and Ken P. Neumann opened in 1998. The shop has two smoking lounges, one of which is designed to look like a living room, with easy chairs, barber's chairs, free coffee and sodas for half a dollar.

"If it wasn't for the lounge, we would not be here today," says Ken. "It's done so much for our business and made our customers loyal to the store. Roughly half our store is a smoking lounge."

Some cigar lounges are nothing but a few chairs. Others have some amenities, and most have a television set or two. Some charge membership fees, which could be as little as $2 monthly or as high as $500 a year, depending on demand and the level of service provided by the lounge. Common etiquette suggests that smokers visiting any lounge should consider fees when sitting down: if you're a member and have paid for the privilege of being there, feel free to bring your own cigar, but if the lounge is simply a couple of chairs provided to paying customers, be sure to buy something, or you might not be given the warmest welcome.

Few lounges sell food, but many shops provide it free of charge, or someone sitting in the lounge may bring in something to eat. At Club Perfecto, the Connecticut lounge, two of the regulars are owners of A&S Fine Foods, a nearby Italian deli, and they rarely come by without a plate heaped with fresh mozzarella, Genoa salami, sorpresatta and roasted peppers. Arlington Cigar in Arlington, Texas, has a grill behind the store and a refrigerator where customers store meat. "They can come here and cook lunch or cook their dinner," says co-owner Mark Bartlett. The cigar lounge in the store is about 1,500 square feet.

Local regulations prohibit many shops from selling alcohol and food, but one glorious exception is Hudson Valley Cigars, in New Windsor, New York.

Pull up to Hudson Valley Cigars and you'll see three buildings, two of them landmarks. The cigar shop is on the far left, Schlesinger's Steak House is on the far right, and the unnamed cigar bar is in the middle. New York State law prohibits smoking in the restaurant, but you can smoke in the cigar shop (which has a few seats) and you can smoke throughout the bar, even while dining on the restaurant's excellent steak.

The shop is run by Glynna Schlesinger, and her husband, Neil, runs the steak house. They rented out the building that is now the cigar store until a friend suggested they start selling cigars.

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