So that cigar you smoked at your best friend’s wedding became a once-a-day experience. You’ve started collecting cigars and purchased an at-home humidor. You’re a regular brother of the leaf. Everyone who enjoys a premium cigar is part of an exclusive club. Most smokers eventually look for a place to share a smoke with friends. From the high-end cigar bar to the cozy storefront club, you’ll find a wide variety of venues when smoking outside the peacefulness of your home. If you live in a small town, you might not have as many options as you would in a larger city. However, there are loyal cigar enthusiasts everywhere, so what does the diversity of cigar lounges look like today? Here’s what you might find when heading out to smoke.
Diversity of Indoor Smoking and Laws
Smoking laws these days are as complex and varied as tobacco tax codes. Many states have ordinances that ban the sale of alcohol in establishments that also allow smoking. Getting a license for food and alcohol sales often depends on a certain percentage of revenue from tobacco products. Private clubs are typically not subject to these laws but allow members to bring alcohol and food.
Know the laws in the area. They will often dictate the type of lounges you’ll find. For example, smoking accommodations run the gamut from first-rate service to the shabby and everything in between.
The Diversity of Lounges
Free Front-of-the-House Smoking
Many cigar shops allow “front of the house” smoking at no charge. These technically don’t fall into the “lounge” category, but they are worth mentioning. All some guys need is a comfy chair right in the retail space of their local cigar shop. They smoke the merchandise and talk up the newbies about the latest blends.
Front-of-the-house smoking might not be the right fit for everyone, but it is cost-effective, and there is a genuine sense of belonging when you become a regular at your local shop. There are plenty of drawbacks, however. Most shops that allow smoking have limited seating. Depending on local laws, many lack the proper ventilation and won’t allow you to enjoy your favorite stick with your favorite spirit.
The Retail Store Lounge
Many lounges connect to small retail shops. They charge a yearly or per diem fee and have various amenities worth the money. Regarding cigar lounges and cigar bars, there are plenty of choices and a wide range of quality.
The size, decor, and ambiance of a lounge matter if you plan on spending time there. You’ll know what kind of place it is by evaluating the diversity of furniture and the interior design. For example, are there leather chairs with firm armrests or ratty chairs with broken springs and burn holes?
You’ll also want to know how many members belong. For example, if the lounge has ten chairs for 200 members, you might be out of luck during busy hours or cold weather.
The No-Frills Lounge
These establishments may seem dumpy, but some smokers feel at home in a fusty old room with a pool table and video poker.
Since small shops are typically in the business of selling cigars, many pay little attention to their lounge accommodations.
The no-frills clubs may charge you for a day pass, but they are usually inexpensive. Here you’ll find a few folding chairs and a table or two. The room may be small and poorly ventilated. You might not want to bring that bottle of 100-year-old scotch. Chances are you’ll be drinking it from a red Solo cup.
If you’re traveling for business or want a quick stick out of the elements, there’s nothing wrong with these establishments. They can be quaint with plenty of locals and friendly staff. However, don’t expect a diversity of amenities. While they may offer yearly memberships, these establishments devote little time or money to their lounge atmosphere.
The Traditional Private Lounge
For the classic lounge, there is a range of choices. These lounges become affiliated with a storefront but typically provide a more comfortable setting for frequent smokers — a simple elegance with a quiet calmer vibe.
Owners of these lounges spend a good deal of time and money designing rooms devoted to smoking cigars. So expect a first-rate ventilation system, decor, and atmosphere more akin to a charming Irish pub.
Most have televisions, comfortable seating, glassware, and soft drinks. Since paying members are the only smokers allowed, finding a seat isn’t a problem, nor is dealing with crowds and foot traffic from customers buying cigars.
They often provide merchandise discounts and host events like Super Bowl Parties, poker nights, and holiday gatherings for members. Since owners work closely with vendors, you can also count on special events hosted by cigar companies.
Since membership costs extra, most places don’t mind if you bring your cigars, but it’s always nice to support a local brick-and-mortar store by buying from the humidor.
BYOB Cigar Lounges
Small shops are typically in the business of selling cigars, so most lack a diversity of licenses like selling alcohol or food. However, membership has its advantages. Since they aren’t private clubs, lounges allow members to bring alcohol and food.
Conventional lounges also typically offer humidified storage lockers for an additional fee, but basic lounges are inexpensive and provide a home away from home. Besides yearly memberships, they welcome walk-ins and travelers.
However, not all lounges are the same. Some BYOBs and private clubs cater to wealthier clientele, others to a more blue-collar crowd. Nevertheless, there are plenty of classy lounges that appeal to everyone, no matter what your income. In the end, everyone is there to smoke. As long as you know cigar etiquette, most places welcome new members and walk-ins.
The Full-Service Lounge
Like the BYOB lounge, a full-service lounge typically offers large modern televisions with cable stations, streaming, and sports packages. The furniture is comfortable and plentiful, and members prevent crowds from getting too large.
The difference is a full-service bar and possibly appetizer and entrée menus. These full-service lounges keep the private club feel, but many attract a diversity in clientele. Non Smoking patrons with friends who smoke are often welcome, so the crowd may not be just cigar enthusiasts. However, the draw is the freedom to smoke. A membership might cost a bit more than a traditional lounge, but expect top-notch service and a business that appeals to the cigar smoker foremost.
The High-End Cigar Bar
Although many cities outlaw smoking and alcohol consumption or at the least make it difficult or costly to get licenses, larger businesses can afford it. Cigar companies like Ashton and Davidoff have elegant, spacious venues in big cities like New York and Las Vegas.
They provide a full-service experience that focuses on the accommodations and the satisfaction of their members and patrons. Expect a bar fully stocked with top-shelf liquors and expert advice on pairing cigars with spirits. Depending on the region, they provide indoor and outdoor seating. Perhaps it’s the novelty of lighting up a premium cigar in a sophisticated setting, but novices, enthusiasts, and everyone in between patronize genuine cigar bars.
Diversity in Cigar Lounges: The Right Place and Time
Cigar smoking is a bond no matter where you decide to smoke. Part of smoking cigars is being open-minded. You’ll meet people of various backgrounds in various lines of work. Remember to keep politics and religion out of the conversation. Nothing spoils the atmosphere like an untimely political barb. From construction workers to Wall Street traders, cigar smoking attracts people from all walks of life. It’s part of the camaraderie of the hobby.
Some venues attract a younger livelier crowd, others an older one. If you’re looking to relax and watch the news after work, a lounge that feels like a nightclub might not be for you. Alternatively, paying a day fee at BYOB is a good bet if you want to network or share a smoke with a few like-minded individuals. Ultimately, it’s about comfort and what you want when you light your next premium cigar. There’s always a place with the right atmosphere for the moment.
Photo credit: Cigar Life Guy