Merchants NY, one of New York City's few remaining true cigar bars, is closing its doors—but it may not be for good. The smoky locale, which has operated on Manhattan's east side for nearly 20 years, will shut down on December 20 for a planned renovation.
After an announcement posted to Merchants NY's Twitter account earlier this week urging patrons to "Stop by and say goodbye to [Merchants] Cigar Bar," Abraham Merchant, CEO of Merchants Hospitality Inc., told Cigar Aficionado that the space may still remain a smoking venue, but didn't offer further details.
"I can confirm that Merchants NY Cigar Bar will close on December 20 for renovation. Unfortunately, we cannot discuss additional details at this time," said Merchant. "... We can, however, confirm that we will continue to maintain our tobacco permit."
The cigar bar's website says a new establishment called Sugar East will be opening in early 2017. However, it is unclear if the venue will be a cigar-friendly space. Treadwell Park, the restaurant located above the subterranean cigar bar, is also operated by Merchants Hospitality.
Merchants NY, which is located on the corner of 62nd Street and First Avenue, first opened its doors in 1997 during the American cigar boom. When New York City's Smoke Free Air Act went into effect in Spring 2003, Merchants was among the handful of cigar bars to receive a grandfathered exemption, meaning the venue could sell both alcohol and cigars.
The cigar bar was subsequently involved in a legal dispute with the New York City Health Department, which threatened its exempt status as a tobacco bar. However, in 2007 a New York State Supreme Court Justice ruled in favor of Merchants, allowing the venue to remain open.
City law now prohibits the opening of any new cigar bars. With the closing of Merchants, New Yorkers have even fewer warm locales to enjoy a cigar and a cocktail as the frigid Northeast winter approaches.