Imperial Tobacco Unit Acquires Cigar Inn; Cigar Aficionado Lounge Closes

A unit of Britain's Imperial Tobacco PLC, one of the world's largest tobacco concerns, has acquired the two Cigar Inn locations in New York City from brothers Gus, Billy and Bass Fakih. Imperial intends to keep the name of the stores. Terms of the deal, which was finalized today, were not disclosed.

Cigar Inn has two locations, one on Manhattan's Upper East Side, on 73rd Street, and the other in Midtown, on Second Avenue. The Second Avenue location has also been the home of the Cigar Aficionado lounge—but that ended with this deal.

"Cigar Inn has been home to the Cigar Aficionado lounge, but that relationship has come to an end," said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado magazine. "By policy, we can't have our lounge in a store whose owners also own a cigar company—it would be a conflict of interest."

Imperial Tobacco PLC has wide holdings in the cigar business. It owns Altadis U.S.A. Inc., maker of the non-Cuban versions of Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and many other brands, the JR Cigar store chain, as well as half of Cuba's Habanos S.A.

The Cigar Aficionado lounge opened in December 2008. The signage was removed from the store yesterday.

Cigar Inn was officially acquired by East Side Cigar Co., an entity created by Imperial specifically for this acquisition.

"I am a long-time admirer of the stores that brothers Gus, Billy and Bass Fakih have built at both Manhattan locations," said Rob Norris, president of East Side Cigar. Norris is also the chief executive officer of JR Cigars, which is also an Imperial unit. "We want to stay true to the cigar heritage and tradition that the Fakih brothers have developed in their stores."

Norris said few changes were in store for the Cigar Inn locations. While the brothers who once ran it are departing with this deal, he intends to keep on their existing staff.

"Despite the change in ownership, no substantial changes are currently planned for the stores," said Norris.

Gus Fakih told Cigar Aficionado that he and his brothers would keep busy in their other business ventures, which include real estate. "We were doing other things as well," said Fakih. "We have to move on."

Fakih has been in the cigar business for more than 20 years.

In a joint statement, the brothers wrote: "We have full confidence in the new ownership's vision for the future of the Cigar Inn. We have painstakingly built this business with passion and pride over many years, and we were very particular about who we selected to take this to the next level."