In my travels over the past month, I visited several cigar lounges in both Dallas, Texas and Southern California. I was just thinking of all of the cigar lounges I visited during that time, and how different each one of them is.
Addison, CI, Autoscape, GHR, Stixx, Old Oaks
The first thing that I should call attention to is that some cigar lounges are more like cigar stores and/or bars where you can smoke. For example, the Cigars International Superstore in The Colony is a store (as the name suggests). It is a bar that serves any alcoholic beverage you might want (although their selection of single malt scotch whiskies is a little weak). It is a large room with leather couches and tables, and it is a covered outdoor patio with both fans and firepits. There is nothing exclusive or pretentious about it – people are watching sports on screens that are everywhere, cheering (loudly and unashamedly) for their favourite teams. Looking around the room, people are smoking high-end cigars while others are smoking sticks that most connoisseurs would thumb their noses at. The dress code seems to be… well, wear clothes. On any given day you might see people in t-shirts and football jerseys socializing with people dressed to the nines. I would not say that there are no airs about… but they are probably less casual about them.
There are private lounges that may or may not sell cigars, such as Stixx in Woodland Hills and the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills, California. These lounges are reserved for members only, and if you are not a member (or a guest of a member) then you are not getting past the front door. In these, there are also major differences between lounges. While Stixx has no dress code, I was told when I sat with my friend at the GHR at 2:00pm that when 5:00pm rolled around, I had better put on long pants, because there is a strict dress code at night. I did not have to be wearing a jacket and tie, but shorts and t-shirts are forbidden. The GHR has a full staff, and serves both food and beverages. They do sell cigars, but it is not their main source of income. Membership is quite pricey… and exclusive, limited by the number of lockers in the walk-in humidor. I am told the waiting list is quite long. The clientele is exactly who you might expect from an exclusive high-end club in Beverly Hills… ranging from Hollywood moguls to businessmen and politicians. You are more likely to see high end Cuban cigars than anything pedestrian… although the Tatuaje line (a decent but unpretentious line) started in the lobby, where Pete Johnson worked selling cigars. Stixx, on the other hand, feels much less pretentious. Most of the cigars you will see are good, many great. The owner is an entrepreneur and cigar enthusiast named Johnny, who took over the lounge from the original owners nearly two years ago. In addition to the lounge, he also has his own line of cigars, of which I will write more in another article. Suffice anit to say, they are excellent.
There is a range of hybrids between these two models. Depending on who you ask, Old Oak (in Thousand Oaks, California) is either a wine and liquor store that sells cigars, or a cigar store that sells wine and liquors. Whichever it is, their stock of both is impressive. and the owners (Albert and Arsin are brothers) are both passionate and knowledgeable about a wide range of topics. There is a smoking lounge in the back, which you reach by walking around the building. There is both an indoor and an outdoor seating area, where you can watch the game on TV, or if you would rather, there are a few seats out front, where you can watch the traffic on Thousand Oaks Boulevard. Most of the people I have met here are nice, although I have also encountered one or two zealots who are passionate to a fault about politics, religion, football, school zoning, and whatever else people in California tend to argue passionately about. All in all, it is usually a great place to hang out.
In slight contrast to Old Oak, the Addison Cigar Company in Addison, Texas is another hybrid model between the paid lounge and the store. The front of house is a store, with a gorgeous and well-stocked walk-in humidor. There are a couple of tables where you can sit and enjoy your cigar, or you can take your purchases and go. Behind the store though, there is the private lounge, which is a members-only section. It also has leather couches and tables and even a poker table, as well as the climate-controlled locker room where the members can keep their purchases, or bring their own cigars (and bottles). Addison also has a patio, where you can choose to watch the large-screen TV, or the end of the runway of the adjacent Addison Airport. While there are doors between the store and the lounge, I have never seen them closed. On our first two visits, Leslie and I were invited by the manager to sit in the lounge to enjoy our cigar. I suspect these two points are to encourage customers to join. If that is the case, it worked… I have been a member since August.
Every lounge will have its own rules. Some allow cigarettes and vaping, others do not. There is a store/lounge in Glendale, California called Puro Humo. I started hanging out there before I ever moved to California. They are clear that the rule is that you may only smoke what you buy from them. Other store/lounges allow you to bring your own, as long as you buy one of theirs. The important thing to do when visiting any type of establishment is to learn (and then follow) their rules. Cigar smoking should always be done respectfully, and that does not only mean consideration for non-smokers, but for the environment in which you are. I have heard horror stories from owners of establishments that make me cringe. Remember, if you are a guest of a member, your behaviour reflects on them… and even if you are not someone’s guest, your behaviour is always a reflection of yourself. I have left (relatively) expensive lighters and things at my table at almost all of the establishments that I mentioned in this article, and whether I came back after five or fifty minutes, I always knew they would be there when I got back.
Whoever you are, it is important to have somewhere that you can feel comfortable, even at home, to enjoy your cigar. For some, that will be Cigars International. For others, it might be the Grand Havana Room. As with most extremes, many of us will find ourselves most comfortable in the middle… although we can adapt to either extreme. This is certainly not the case for everyone. Sitting in another smoke-friendly establishment the day after my last visit to the Grand Havana Room, I overheard a group of twenty-somethings using extremely foul language to say how they would never go to an establishment that made them follow a dress code. For reasons of propriety, I will not repeat or even paraphrase anything they said. Suffice it to say, they would not likely be invited to the GHR… or Stixx, and most likely would not be invited to join a hybrid like Addison. All the better, they most likely would not be comfortable in those surroundings. High-class exclusive clubs are not for everyone… just like a blue-collar club might not be for everyone either. Find what you like, and be respectful of the establishment… even if your team happens to be losing!