By now, you have probably heard that we were forced to cancel the Big Smoke in Chicago this April because of the new Illinois smoking law that took effect on January 1. We didn't want to, but the hotel where the event was held for the past four years said that its lawyers had determined that the law simply didn't permit a smoking event on its premises. Unfortunately, they are correct. It is a disappointment for us, and for the entire cigar industry, because we know that the Windy City is one of the great cigar towns in America. Last year, we had more than 2,000 attendees.
There are a lot of great memories from 13 years of hosting Big Smokes in Chicago. The years on the waterfront at the Fairmont were some of the most raucous, exciting parties that we ever held anywhere. There was no doubt that every cigar smoker in the Chicago area was ready to come out and have a good time. After we realized we needed a bigger space, we moved to the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont. At first we worried that it was going to be inconvenient, but we quickly learned that for people in Indiana and Wisconsin, it was easier to get to, and we still got the Chicago crowd. Again, we had some great nights.
But we're not looking back. We will begin exploring other options to replace that event. It may not be in Illinois, but we will do everything we can to get another Big Smoke back to the Midwest in 2009.
In the meantime, let's look at the history of Big Smokes. Since the beginning in 1993, more than 250,000 people have attended Big Smokes in cities that included Boston, Washington, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Miami and Atlantic City. Of course, the two cornerstone events, the Big Smoke New York and the Big Smoke Las Vegas, continue to be held every year. Last November, we had more than 6,000 people attend the Las Vegas event at The Venetian hotel, and more than 500 people participated in the seminars on Saturday and Sunday. New York's attendance last fall exceeded 3,000 people, and we could have held a third event the same night given the demand for tickets.
Why do people love it so much? It is the world's biggest cigar party. You usually walk out the door with more than 30 premium hand—rolled cigars; you get to sample the best rums, Bourbons, Scotches and fine beers; and there is excellent food served up either by the hotel or local restaurants. But that's only part of the story. You get to spend a night with your cigar buddies and you get the chance to meet other cigar smokers from all over the country. In Las Vegas, we have groups of guys who plan mini—vacations just to come to the Big Smokes, and to enjoy the local entertainment too.
But with so many cigar lovers having so much fun, you can just imagine how it makes the anti—tobacco fanatics feel. In New York, we actually faced an anti—Big Smoke campaign, with people handing out flyers. There are a lot of ways we can counter that, but the most important is your continued support for the Big Smokes.
Don't worry. We are going to find places that will welcome us. And, in turn, we will welcome your support of the event in the years to come.