Smoking lounges: every passionate cigar fan knows all about them. The plush, comfortable chairs. The wood-carved furniture. The pleasure of like-minded companions. The smell of different stogies drifting into the air. The fine drinks and soft lighting. The wheels.
Well, if you're smoking in the Mobile Cigar Lounge, anyway. This new business venture launched by a group of former National Hockey League stars is basically a cigar bar on wheels, Airstream trailer wheels to be exact, and it's given several ex-members of the Tampa Bay Lightning a new way to enjoy some of that old team camaraderie--along with giving smokers who can't light up in certain places a new hangout venue.
According to several reports, the Mobile Cigar Lounge (which began operations in January 2008) is the new post-hockey project of Stan Neckar and Dave Andreychuk. After playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning (and winning the Stanley Cup in 2004), these Tampa-based hockey heroes and cigar-smoking buddies were looking for a new way to occupy their considerable energies. Since both were longtime cigar smokers--it's apparently something of a tradition for freshly-minted Stanley Cup winners to light up stogies after the game--and because they had both watched smoking bans be enacted in one venue after another, the idea of a roving cigar bar, a place-on-wheels that shows up at other places that don't allow smoking in order to give visitors and tourists who love cigars a place to go, seemed like a good choice.
It definitely fulfills a necessity. As a general rule, community centers, concert halls, and sports venues--the kinds of places where big events are held--are subject to the same restrictions that are in force anywhere else in the community. And if a town bans smoking, then that town's indoor baseball stadium, for example, and its dance hall, as well as its bars and restaurants, are now strictly no-smoking affairs. That's why, for example, professional theatre actors and producers now have to think twice about actually including any smoking that may be called for in a particular script. If the town or city has a smoking ban, then the theatre has one, too. (And getting official permission not to follow those kinds of rules is usually a forbidding process.)
So increasingly, events like wedding receptions, sporting events, conventions, benefits, fundraisers, and other once-safe-for-smokers social events are getting hard to organize, logistically. And in Tampa, where the Mobile Cigar Lounge originates, there are public parks that don't even allow smoking. What is a cigar smoker to do? She or he has fewer and fewer public places in which to smoke, and while we all may agree that the asthmatic, allergic and very young have a right not to be exposed to what is, after all, smoke, it's hard not to be able to ever indulge one of your favorite pleasures in public. Half the point of cigar smoking, for some connoisseurs, is actually the social side of it--it's having something to talk about with other smokers, comparing stories and experiences, sharing a light, etc. It's a relaxing, social ritual, as it was for the ancient natives of North America who were (as far as we know) the first-ever users of tobacco.
So it's no wonder that the Mobile Cigar Lounge has showed up at golf tournaments and weddings, among other places where cigars may not be especially welcome (or where a quick indoor smoke among friends might simply seem enjoyable to some guests). They're working on coming up with party packages for bachelor parties, women's night out-type events, and football-watching parties. (The Lounges have flat-screen TVs as well as full humidors, some drinking allowed, and a waitstaff well-trained in the fine points of cigar delectation.)
So, cigar fans, the next time you're planning a major event (wedding, retirement party, etc.) and you find that the venue you're using doesn't allow smoking, maybe it's time to give the lounge on wheels approach a try.
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