How do you have a cigar-smoking fundraiser in a city where you’re not allowed to smoke? This was the major challenge for the New York Tobacconists Association when they were planning out their first major event. After numerous rejections and dead-ends, their quest for a smoking stage finally brought them to Water’s Edge, a restaurant and catering hall with a dramatic view of the city skyline.
As it’s name suggests, Water’s Edge is perched on the East River in Long Island City on the fringes of Manhattan, and it was the picturesque setting for the NYTA’s first annual Stog-A-Thon. Through raffles, auctions and ticket sales, the Stog-A-Thon raised $35,000 for the organization.
“The event was attended by the loyal customers of New York’s brick-and-mortar tobacconists from throughout the state, and was also supported by retailers from the neighboring states of Connecticut and New Jersey,” said Michael Herklots, executive director for Nat Sherman Tobacconist and active member of NYTA. “This was hosted with permission from the New York State Health Department under an exemption as permitted in the smoking ban. The guests were in complete compliance with the law, refraining from smoking when it was not permitted—and joyfully firing up when it was.”
The Stog-A-Thon started with cigar-smoking cocktail hour, and then proceeded to a three course sit-down dinner where guests were asked to temporarily refrain from smoking. After dessert was served, puffing quickly reprised.
In attendance was Glynn Loope of the Cigar Rights of America as well as officials from Albany and the New York City Council: New York State Senators Martin J. Golden and Lee M. Zeldin, New York State Assemblywomen Michelle Schimel and Nicole Malliotakis, and New York City Councilman Dan Halloran.
About 300 guests attended the Stog-A-Thon, which offered cigars from over 30 manufacturers, including, Davidoff, General Cigar, Altadis, CLE, Fonseca, La Flor Dominicana, La Aurora, Gurkha, Drew Estate, Alec Bradley, J. C. Newman and Nat Sherman.
“The purpose of the event is to raise money so that the professional tobacconists can have their voices heard in Albany,” said NYTA president Ron Melendi before the event. “These small businesses are suffering because of excessive taxation and a full-out frontal attack on these businesses.”
Founded in 2010, the NYTA is an activist organization of New York’s tobacconists formed to battle anti-tobacco taxation and legislation on both the state and local level.