I don't really know how I missed the fact that there was a bar in the affluent Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., that allowed cigar smoking. Maybe since I moved away in 1999, when there were still numerous places to light up in the nation's capital, I just didn't venture outside of downtown where Shelly's endures and where John and Matt at W. Curtis Draper Tobacconist provide a friendly sanctuary in which to have a smoke. But none of that is an excuse, so I, your intrepid reporter, have now visited Aroma. Just in time and, it seems, a little too late.
Aroma has been called "a martini bar," sometimes called "hip," and has, most often in the past, been touted to have some of the best bartenders in town. And now, Aroma is closing. After remodeling, it will reopen as a wine bar that serves "small plates" and does not permit smoking.
"Our exemption expires in August," explained a source within Aroma's management team. "The thought is that we can make more money with a restaurant."
The so-called "hardship" exemption was one granted under the 2006-2007 citywide smoking ban to an establishment in Washington, D.C., that could demonstrate it had suffered severely due to the ban. The exemption can be renewed every three years if the business shows that at least 10 percent of revenues come from tobacco sales, not including cigarette vending machines. Aroma sold cigars.
What Aroma really represented, to me at least, was a convenient place outside of downtown D.C. to grab a Gosling's Black Seal rum on the rocks and a cigar on a Sunday or any other evening.
The night I visited Aroma, I had three Aroma de Cuba Robustos and my two buddies and I smoked them while sitting at the long, multicolored broken-tile bar in the front. Aroma has a back lounge that is non-smoking and on weekends offers music from a DJ. Also worth noting, it was open quite late for a Washington bar.
Regulars of Aroma are upset that the cigar-friendly bar is closing.
"I don't get it," said one, who requested his name not be used. "The place is full every night."
Another cigar oasis had been, um, "discovered." Just too late.
Aroma (soon to be a wine bar)
3417 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Phone (202) 244-7995
Sunday — Thursday: 6 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Friday: 5 p.m. - 3 a.m.
Saturday: 6 p.m. - 3 a.m.
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