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Cigar Bars To The Rescue

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By : Ann Knapp    99 or more times read
Submitted 0000-00-00 00:00:00
When, in the early 1990s, the premium cigar industry rebounded after years of stale sales figures and slackening consumer interest, it faced a new social climate. More and more municipalities and states had passed anti-smoking legislation throughout the eighties, and this trend only continued through the 1990s and beyond. All of which meant that many of those new smokers found themselves unable to enjoy their new hobby over a fancy restaurant meal, at the movies, at some bars, or sometimes (as in the case of the new, ultra-restrictive British smoking laws) anywhere outdoors at all.

Thankfully for smokers, cigar bars sprung up throughout the country as a way to offer smokers the chance to enjoy the rich taste of their smoke in the company of folks with similar interests. Many of the new anti-smoking laws make exceptions for establishments that cater directly to smokers - though, often, in these cases, the smoke-permitting establishments must also install air-filtration systems and various other gadgets that ensure maximum air purity (for those inside) and minimum leakage (for the non-smokers outside). Thus, cigar bars represent an important site for the new generation of smokers. Often, they're the only place in town where a person's love of stogies can be shared in a like-minded, social atmosphere. So it's no wonder that cigar bars, like stogie specialty shops, clubs, and even, magazines, became an important part of the new cigar culture that blossomed during the 1990s.

The range of amenities offered varies with the bar. Some high-end bars offer for-rent humidor-lockers - such as Club Macanudo in New York - or books for sale, such as the two Bar and Books stores in New York City (at Hudson and at Lexington). At Azucar Cigar Lounge in Corona, California, you find plasma television sets and walk-in humidors. Many bars double as, in effect, high-end sports bars; they're classy places in which to sit in leather furniture while watching the Knicks game.

Other cigar bars offer the same amenities and entertainment options as other kinds of bars. Burbank Bar and Grill in Burbank, California - the same "beautiful downtown Burbank" from which so many '60s television shows broadcasted - has its own band, and another stogie bar in Glendale, California, has free appetizers. At Fumare (the Spanish word for "to smoke") in Reno, Nevada, patrons play poker, browse books, and watch sports on the flat-screen TV. And Shelly's Back Room, in Washington, D.C., with its location close to the heart of the nation's governmental processes, offers a chance to eavesdrop on the corridors of power.

Other bars are actually cigar stores with substantial added-in lounges - similar to coffee-roasting foundries where coffee is also served, or breweries that offer excellent bars. For example, at The Tobacco Shop in Hartford, Connecticut, you find some hard-to-find smoke and pipe products. Signature Cigars in Rockville, Maryland, offers free coffee to smoking customers.

These establishments are traditionally male-dominated, according to stereotypes, but as with many once-well-established facts about cigar smoking, this one has been subject to some revision in the years since the mid-1990s cigar boom. Premium stogie makers noticed an uptick in the number of female cigar smokers during that period, and stars like Jennifer Garner and Demi Moore trumpeted their love of stogies on the cover of magazines such as Cigar Aficionado. In this new climate, it's no surprise to find women frequenting cigar bars as well. Photographer Danuta Otfinowski offers, on her website, a photo essay devoted to the women who patronize New York City's cigar bars. She writes, "Cigars have been a smoky symbol of male power for many years, but the post-feminist 90's are witnessing the resurgence of the stogie among both men and women."

With cigars continuing to enjoy steady growth in popularity, and those restrictive anti-smoking laws seemingly not about to go anywhere, the importance of cigar bars will likely continue to grow. But there's nothing new about that - tobacco has had a social dimension for nearly as long as it's been smoked. Smoking in ancient tribal societies was, after all, often a social, celebratory activity, and perhaps cigar bars recover some of that ancient camaraderie.
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