Clearing the Air
Can you still smoke a cigar in New York City?
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, July/Aug 03
The New Yorker lands in his usual after-work lounge looking for rest, a cigar and a cocktail. He strolls up to the bar and orders Bourbon on the rocks. The buxom blonde bartender says, "Sorry, only juice drinks and white wine spritzers." The man casts a suspicious glance around the room and notices that the dark suits and black jackets of the typical patrons have been replaced with linen sport coats, tropical print shirts and Okabashi sandals. Vertigo sets in. Shaking his head, he hastily retreats to the corner of the room and finds a designer chaise lounge where his overstuffed leather chair used to be. On the verge of an utter breakdown, he reaches into his breast pocket and slides a Churchill from his cigar case. The sitar music skips to a halt.
The bartender jogs over. "Sir," she says, "there's no smoking in here."
"Wait…" The New Yorker takes a breath, attempting to stabilize the spinning room. "Where am I?"
Once a West Coast phenomenon, the antismoking movement has spread across the country. In New York City, smokers have fallen victim to a comprehensive smoking ban. Many metropolitans never thought it could happen, but on March 31, smoking was prohibited in all of the city's restaurants, nearly every bar, and virtually every indoor building through legislation championed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
California passed the nation's first smoking ban in 1998, and since then, states from Utah to Delaware, as well as several cities, including Boston and Dallas, have followed suit. Florida's statewide smoking ban will go into effect in July, and Chicago is considering its own ban.
New York cigar smokers have been confused since word of the ban broke, uncertain as to where they might be able to puff in peace. Bar owners were confused as well, with one even calling Cigar Aficionado looking for guidance. The confusion grew when New York State banned smoking on March 26 (that law goes into effect in July), eliminating some of the exemptions to the city ban.
A ray of hope exists. Cigar bars, officially known as "tobacco bars," are the last remaining havens for New York smokers determined to puff indoors.
Many of the city's most storied smoking haunts are applying for a tobacco bar exemption. They have until July 25 to submit a formal application, but earning the tobacco bar label means meeting a host of strict requirements. As this issue went to press, many establishments had already applied for an exemption, or intended to do so. To clarify exactly where an aficionado can still go, we set out on a quest to find these last smoking havens in the city that never sleeps.
In the heart of Manhattan, Grand Central Terminal perpetually buzzes with commuters. With towering ceilings, intricate fixtures and Roman columns, it has enough space and Old-World style to be the perfect place to smoke a cigar. Although you no longer can swagger to your platform with smoke billowing from your robusto, there are still two places in the Terminal where you can smoke: The Campbell Apartment and the Oyster Bar.
Mark Grossich, owner of The Campbell Apartment, was a New York cigar bar pioneer. He opened the city's first, known as Beekman Bar and Books, in 1990, and now he has filed for cigar bar status for two bars: The Campbell Apartment, the restored former office of business tycoon John W. Campbell, and The Carnegie Club, a well-stocked cocktail and music lounge at West 56th Street and Fifth Avenue.
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