"Comercíante de tabaco" reads the logo on the glass door of the Lordsburg Cigar Lounge in the small, affluent suburb of Los Angeles called La Verne, once the heart of orange growing in Southern California. The description, which translates into "merchants of tobacco," was inspired by Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante's stream of consciousness tome on cigar history in Cuba, Holy Smoke. (Groucho Marx graces the cover.)
While the literary reference might be obscure, it's the most intellectually distinctive connection I've come across in the name of a cigar lounge. The Lordsburg Cigar Lounge, however, will be very familiar to many cigar aficionados. There are overstuffed, leather chairs, flat-screen TVs, poker night on Thursdays and grilled hotdogs and burgers for football tailgating during the season.
You know what I'm talking about. You've been there. This is the 21st century version of the cigar bar. And it's a very welcome addition to the increasingly difficult landscape of finding not only a friendly indoor place to enjoy a cigar, but to hang out with like-minded folks who value the concept of decompressing.
"Our motivation," explains founding partner Brian Cooper, "was to have a place where people could come relax. It's not all about cigars. We wanted to create a spa for guys, or cigar smokers, where you could get away from everyday stuff."
Lordsburg, named after the original town that became La Verne, Cooper explains, came about as a result of the closing of a cigar lounge in a neighboring town in which he lives. That lounge closed and the city officials there were not friendly to the notion of a new lounge opening.
"La Verne embraced us," Cooper says, adding that many in city hall were cigar smokers. Cooper and his partner, Eric Wanland, and the manager, Mike Manning—who used to have a cigar store in front of his former law offices—took on the task of converting a defunct juice bar into a comfortable destination that can accommodate about a dozen guests (according to the fire marshall) and provide the opportunity for locals to enjoy a smoke while sitting and watching the Angels take on the Twins in a day game. (The Angels won.)
The space is not cluttered. There's only a small Xikar accessories display case near the cash register and a small number of shelves with other merchandise. The humidor sits between the front and back rooms. The back is reserved for members when the lounge gets crowded. One becomes a member by renting one of 66 lockers for $30 a month or a prepaid $300 a year. Members get a 10 percent discount on any purchase, 15 percent on a box of cigars or "the equivalent," roughly 20 cigars or more.
The owners put heart, soul and not a little cash into building the lounge. The ventilation system can handle twice the amount of space in which to smoke. The duct system also has fans that can clear the air and replace it in about 90 seconds. That's a welcome feature.
Welcomed, too, is that Lordsburg carries the usual excellent cigar brands, but also locally-owned and locally-available ones like Wilson-Adams, a new brand that was released in December 2012 and is based in nearby Rancho Cucamonga. The corona I had was a medium-bodied cigar made in Nicaragua with an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and "a three country filler." OK. Anyway, it was a good, mid-afternoon cigar that burned evenly and maintained a consistently nice flavor throughout. At $7.95, I was happy I tried it. Tatuaje, which is based out of Los Angeles, is among the biggest sellers at Lordsburg.
Lordsburg opened in July of 2013 and is "doing very well." On Tuesdays, customers can buy four cigars and get one free. There are "guy movies" (Blazing Saddles, Trading Places) offered on Saturday nights.
For me, La Verne is now on the list of "oasis places" where I can take a rest from SoCal traffic when I'm out driving east of L.A. And believe me, traffic's getting worse, but with Lordsburg Cigar Lounge, the number of rest stops is getting better.
Lordsburg Cigar Lounge
1249 Foothill Blvd
La Verne, California
Monday to Wednesday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Thursday and Friday: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.