Cigar Aficionado

New Hampshire Cigars Bars Earmarked for Exemption

The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed an amendment to the 2007 Indoor Smoking Act yesterday that would allow cigar bars to again become a Granite State smoking destination.

Instituted in September, the Indoor Smoking Act extended the statewide smoking prohibitions to include lighting up inside restaurants and bars. Cigar retailers were excused from having to push smokers outside, but there was no such allowance approved for businesses that, in addition to cigars, sold spirits and food. In yesterday's session, a bill sponsored by both Democratic and Republican representatives proposed an addendum to the law that would grant an exemption for establishments that derived more than 60 percent of income from the sale of tobacco and tobacco-related products. Such places would also be permitted a liquor license, which under current law requires that they also sell food. They would also be required to hold a tobacco retailer's license and prohibit entry to persons under the age of 18.

"We need to create an exemption for cigar bars, so that this small business has a chance to thrive," said Rep. Edward Butler (D-Carr), a sponsor of the bill. Butler said that the exemption was considered in the original Act but was omitted in the final draft. Butler said he thinks it would be easier for businesses to qualify for the exemption at 50 percent but that the addendum would not pass at 50 percent.

"The way it stands now is you have no place to smoke other in a cigar store with no spirits or food," said David Garofalo, co-owner of Two Guys Smoke Shop in Salem. The shop is 8,500 square feet and houses such amenities as a pool table, leather couches and flat-screen televisions. "We could pull it off [the 60 percent requirement] probably and I think a lot of little cigar shops could as well."

Other states with smoking bans also list a percentage revenue requirement in their definitions of a cigar bar. Nearby Massachusetts stipulates that establishments must generate at least 51 percent of revenues from tobacco. New York State mandates 10 percent, and New Jersey requires 15 percent.

The bill now passes to the state Senate. The effective date would be January 1, 2009.