In The 1920s There Were Speakeasies. In The 1990s There Are Cigar Lounges
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The Cigar Smoking Lounge at Oasis Winery
14141 Hume Road
International Cigar Store
31840 Pacific Highway South
The cigar lounge craze sweeping the nation is nothing new to one man in California. For more than 10 years, Nazareth Guluzian of Nazareth's Fine Cigars and Smoke Lounge in Beverly Hills has been offering a sanctuary for cigar smokers at his cigar shop.
With its all-cedar interior, leather chairs and relaxed atmosphere, Nazareth's 800-square-foot private smoking lounge is a haven for the who's who of Hollywood: from Schwarzenegger to Stallone to Cage. Guests can kick back and enjoy an espresso or tea while savoring a cigar from Nazareth's well-stocked humidor, which includes Montecristos, Avos and the store's signature brand, Romeo and Julieta, made exclusively for Guluzian.
"We upgraded [the cigar] until it became a quality cigar and we put my name on it," says Guluzian, who has been working with Romeo and Julieta since 1985. The cigar, which is known as Nazareth's Romeo and Julieta Cabinet Selection, comes in five different shapes: Churchill, corona, lonsdale, robusto and palma.
Guluzian began his tobacco career in 1979 with Alfred Dunhill of Beverly Hills. He is grateful to Dunhill for providing him with valuable retail experience and instilling his passion for cigars. He made the difficult decision to leave in 1985 because, he says, the store was moving towards clothing and accessories and away from tobacco.
Guluzian opened Nazareth's in 1985 when many tobacco shops were downsizing or closing. He added a smoking lounge to his store because he and his friends needed a private cigar sanctuary, away from anti-smoking zealots, where they could indulge in their mutual passion and socialize.
"I wanted to do something to comfort my friends and whoever smokes cigars, whoever is a connoisseur. I created that room to get everybody to gather and sit down and smoke and be away from the anti-smoking rules. They have the freedom to come in and relax and smoke a cigar."
A popular refuge, Nazareth's has attracted members of Beverly Hills' elite, who have reserved the 110 free private lockers that come with personal plaques and locks. To keep the locker, a member must purchase an average of two boxes of cigars a month from the store.
Most customers are buying more than two boxes. Nazareth's is one of the most respected tobacconists in the area and people keep coming back. Guluzian is quite content with its success. Although many public and private cigar clubs and bars are opening in greater Los Angeles and other cities around the nation, he believes that his lounge will endure.
"I don't feel that they are competition," he says. "I basically feel that they are more advertising, rather than competition. Most of the people that are opening right now are not experienced in the field. They smoke a few cigars that they like and they have money. That is all.
"It is not about having the place and the cigars. You have got to know more about it; it takes a while to learn about the brands and taste. Within a year or two they are going to realize that this is about passion and art and not about selling cigars and making money."
350 North Canon Drive,
Beverly Hills, California 90210