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Smoking in Peace

David Shaw
From the Print Edition:
Premier Issue, Autumn 92

(continued from page 4)

A few minutes later, the woman and her party left. As she passed Doumani's table, he says, "She smacked me in the side of the head with her purse." Doumani is six-foot, two-inches, 220 pounds, but she hit him so hard that he toppled off his chair, on to the floor, and his glasses went flying across the room.

I don't intend this to be an apologia for cigar smokers. Some cigar smokers are rude and inconsiderate. Often, they're rich and powerful and arrogant, and they're not used to having anyone question anything they do. They're their own--and our--worst enemy.

Like most cigar smokers, I can't help but smile secretly when I hear stories like the one about the prominent attorney in Philadelphia who listened to a woman's request that he put out his cigar, then refused, saying, "Madam, this cigar cost more than your entire meal." Or the man at Morton's restaurant in Chicago who was so chagrined when a woman told him to, "Go smoke that damn thing in the bathroom," that he said, "Go eat your dinner in the bathroom." But those small satisfactions won't help us win The Great Cigar War.

If cigar smokers would follow the basic rules of courtesy I outlined above, it might help disarm all but the most rabid cigar haters. I've come to believe--perhaps naively--that in most settings, despite the current fulmination's of so many tantrumical tobacco tyrants, you and I can enjoy our cigars, and people who don't like them don't have to see or smell them. All it takes is reason and goodwill.

A few restaurants--too few, in my opinion--are trying to deal sensibly with this sensitive issue; the best solution, as I suggested earlier, is to have smoking and non-smoking sections, and to permit cigars as well as cigarettes in the smoking section. Among the restaurants that do this are Anthony's Pier 4 in Boston, Yuca in Miami, Gene and Georgetti's in Chicago, Tony's in Houston, the Palace Arms in the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver and the Quilted Giraffe, Post House and The '21' Club in New York.

"If someone in the smoking area complains about a customer smoking a cigar, we move the complainer, not the smoker," says Ken Aretsky, the chairman, of '21.'

Lance Barbakow, manager at Boston's landmark restaurant, Locke-Ober, is even more cigar-friendly. Cigars are permitted throughout Locke-Ober, except in the private dining room on the third floor, and if someone complains, Barbakow says, "We explain that we're really not in a position to tell the cigar smoker to put his cigar out. We invite the person [who's complaining] to come into the lounge for dessert or an after-dinner drink."

Susan Wine, who runs the front of the house at the Quilted Giraffe while husband, Barry, is in the kitchen, creating some of the best and most original food in America, has an unusual solution to the cigar problem. Because of the strong Japanese influence in the restaurant's cuisine, it attracts many Japanese diners, and "If we need someone to sit between smokers and non-smokers, we often put Japanese there," she says. "So many of them smoke so much, they're used to smoking."

Most restaurants, however, are far more likely to move the smoker than they are to move the complainer or create a buffer table. Some restaurateurs--like Piero Selvaggio at Valentino in Santa Monica, just west of Los Angeles--do so graciously.

"I respect the pleasure some people take in the final taste of a Cognac and a cigar as a complement to a very special meal," Selvaggio says. "We have spaces that are detached [three separate dining rooms plus a nice bar/lounge area], so we can easily move someone with a cigar to a place where they can enjoy it, and no one else will he bothered."

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