Every cigar smoker has experienced the feeling of not being welcome. You walk up to a bar, cigar in hand, and encounter a sign. Perhaps it says NO SMOKING. Worse, you might enter the haze of a smoky bar, sit down at your stool, take out a cigar and only then see the sign that says NO CIGAR SMOKING, letting you know that only cigarettes are welcome. It happens far too often.
The other night, I saw a sign that made me smile rather than frown: Cigar Smoking Only.
The sign is posted at the entrance to the Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida. The Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar is sponsored by J.C. Newman Cigar Co., owners of the Cuesta-Rey cigar brand. When the bar opened in 1998, it quickly became inhabited by cigarette puffers. The sign put an end to that. "It's kind of our revenge on places that won't allow cigars and pipes but allow cigarettes,” said Eric Newman of J.C. Newman in an old Cigar Aficionado Online interview.
The bar is gorgeous, with a splendid array of Newman and Fuente product: Arturo Fuentes, Diamond Crowns, Cuesta-Reys, even Fuente Fuente OpusX (and at proper suggested retail prices, no less.) There are comfortable leather chairs, a pool table, and a bar serving various libations. You can’t see the field of play from the bar, alas, but there are several televisions to keep track of the game. “Some guys never go to their seats,” Eric told me on Tuesday night.
The bar was full of happy cigar smokers on my visit, but not everyone appreciates having such a gem in the stadium. Tropicana Field seems almost embarrassed about the bar—the team removed the word “cigar” from the maps in the stadium, so it simply reads “Cuesta-Rey Bar.” And they no longer allow the Newmans to promote a cigar giveaway on the scoreboard, which they used to do during the seventh inning stretch. That’s too bad. The cigar bar was far busier on my visit than the stadium in general, which was less than half full that evening. The Tampa Rays should embrace the good thing that they have, rather than trying to sweep it away.
At least the sign is right.