Cigar news: Lounges with a cigar twist
Lounge Life Stories
Featured Image courtesy of Lone Wolf Cigar Company & Lounge
COMFORT. RELAXATION. RESPITE. That feeling like our challenges and stressors are on hold. Just the right vibe for friends on the same wavelength to effortlessly engage. That’s what attracts us to our favorite cigar lounge. Each establishment has its own personality. It becomes a niche community unto itself. Your go-to lounge is an escape where local flavor and robust tastes are right at your fingertips.
Each of the four cigar spots profiled in this issue have put their unique stamp on the lounge life experience. It’s highly recommended you pop in if you find yourself in their neck of the woods.
LONE WOLF CIGAR COMPANY & LOUNGE
It’s not surprising that a private cigar lounge located in Santa Monica, Calif., would have a Hollywood-related history. Lone Wolf Cigar Company & Lounge has just that. Two of the lounge’s owners over its long lifespan were Chuck Norris and James Belushi. These days, the lounge is run by a former banker and independent producer David Weiss.
Long before it became connected to the movie industry, the Lone Wolf was a historic cigar company. Founded by Sargent E.E. Baracks in 1893, Lone Wolf one of the first tobacco stores on the West Coast. In fact, it is one of the oldest established and still existing tobacco merchants on the West Coast.
This turn-of-the-century history can be felt in the lounge’s vintage décor, including a dropped ceiling, metal windows and metal-welded furniture with brown leather accents. Weiss was inspired to create this Old World feel by looking at photos of the store from the late 1800s.
The lounge moved in 2014 to its current West L.A. location to a more smoke-friendly building. Weiss, who bought the business back in 2000, was determined to make the lounge a place where customer service is key. His future plans include expanding the brand into a franchise, where cigar aficionados—including “lone wolves” who are spending the holidays without friends or families—can call the lounge their home.
Lone Wolf is a full-service tobacco merchant, specializing in fine cigars, exclusive and rare cigars, tobaccos and smoking accessories. The lounge hosts regular events, such as the recent Avo Syncro South America Ritmo Cigar Tasting Event, Sherwood Cares Golf Tournament and Montecristo Pilotico Cigar Tasting Event.
Encompassing 3,000 square feet, the lounge was designed to create the perfect cigar smoking oasis, with all the details done right, according to Weiss.
“People seem to respond to the plan,” he says. “It’s a good place to work, read, watch a game, and entertain friends and colleagues.”
CASTRO’S BACK ROOM
The concept for Castro’s Back Room came to owner Eric Kilbane one day in 1995 when he and a friend went to restaurant in downtown Nashua, N.H., to smoke a celebratory cigar. Kilbane’s friend had just become a father for the first time. When the two tried to light up, they were told they couldn’t smoke in the restaurant.
“Needless to say, that put a little damper on the evening,” says Kilbane. “However, across the street was a vacant storefront. I said ‘I think I’ll open a cigar store right there.’” And he did, refurbishing the storefront at night while working at his regular job during the day.
Kilbane had a friend run the store during the day while he was at his other job. Kilbane would relieve him in the evenings, and work until midnight.
“This was cigar boom time, and we were smoking a lot of Partagas 10, Hoyo de Monterey Excaliburs, La Gloria Cubana Wavells and a hundred other cigars that are no longer made,” says Kilbane. “Cigars at time were very had to get a hold of. I still remember the first company that opened us up: Habana Gold. I would buy anything and everything I could fit in my humidor.”
Nearly 18 years later, Castro’s Back Room is a popular spot not only in Nashua, but also in the New Hampshire towns of Concord, Manchester, Keene and Bedford, where Kilbane opened up other locations. Customers love the lounges, not just because of the wide selection of cigar brands available, but because the casual atmosphere is open and friendly, and the staff knowledgeable, and happy to offer advice.
Castro’s has a large, walk-in humidor, and is decorated with old cigar memorabilia. The big screen television is always tuned to the hottest game. Patrons can choose between Arturo Fuente, Drew Estate, Perdomo, Padron, LFD, Macanudo, Cusano and many more brands.
“Over the years I have met many great people and traveled to the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras and Cuba,” says Kilbane. “But our success more or less has come from our great employees and customers. You get involved in their lives, and they do in yours. That cannot be changed.”
CASA DE MONTECRISTO NASHVILLE
If honkytonks and the Grand Ole Opry come to mind when you think of Nashville, you might be surprised to learn that Music City is also home to a fine, Old World style cigar lounge, right there in The Gulch.
Casa de Montecristo, located on 9th Avenue, features modern elegant décor with two separate smoking spaces inside, in addition to a patio. A bar for hanging with friends and a conference area for business gatherings give the lounge a flexible, versatile feel. The lounge has big comfy chairs, while soft work chairs make the conference area particularly comfortable. Best of all, these areas are open to everyone; no membership is required.
Six televisions show only sports, while the bar features a number of bourbons and whiskeys. They recently added a larger selection of wine, and are providing “smoked” drink options as well.
The lounge also prides itself on its exceptional customer service.
“Our staff is incredibly customer focused, greeting nearly every customer with a handshake and introduction so they know who we are, and vice-versa,” says manager Larry Newsom. “Doubt you’ll find a more customer forward approach anywhere.”
Those customers are particularly fond of the humidor because of its size and the incredible selection of cigars, according to Newsom. “Some shops feature mostly boutique blends, others more mainstream lines,” he says. “We have both, and a lot of it.”
The humidor features a vast collection of company-owned and licensed-based brands like Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, Padrón, Arturo Fuente, Illusione, My Father, Tatuaje, Macanudo, Partagas.
Newsom says this has made Casa de Montecristo a destination humidor for many of Nashville’s cigar aficionados. “We even have a section for new smokers and spouses so they can feel welcome and comfortable if this is their first time visiting a cigar lounge with friends.”
Case de Montecristo is also known for its relatively smoke-free environment, thanks to an effective air filtration system.
“The air filtration system is a big hit because you can smoke here and return to work not smelling like cigars,” says Newsom. “We even offer smoke killing sprays and mouthwash in the restrooms. Wives have told us this is the only lounge they will visit with their husbands because their hair and clothes don’t reek after a visit.” The lounge opened only recently, in May 2017, but has already become a fixture in the Music City cigar scene.
“It’s been a whirlwind of activity and fun finishing out the shop, stocking the humidor and bar, and most of all meeting the Nashville cigar scene,” says Newsom. “It has welcomed us with open arms.”
PURO CIGAR BAR & LOUNGE
Many cigar lounges fall under the heading of “quaint,” but that’s not how you’d describe Puro Cigar Bar & Lounge, in Chandler, Ariz. The lounge’s footprint consists of 12,000 square feet and three stories, making it a distinct presence among Phoenix-area cigar bars.
With all that room, it’s not surprising that Puro offers more than a typical cigar lounge. The 2,000 square foot rooftop bar features an open-air main bar with 2,300 plus spirits and 16 rotating craft beer tap handles. Wine, champagne and a selection of bottled beer are also on the menu. The humidor is 400 square feet in size, and holds close to 700 cigars.
The real jewel of Puro is the members-only lounge, located on the second floor. The lounge consists of 35 temperature-controlled humidified lockers that can be rented yearly or monthly, seven large-screen televisions and a private member’s patio. The patio consists of two garage windows, and bar top seating with an open-air feeling. Misters keep the patio cool during the summer, while heaters make it toasty in the winter.
General manager Kyle James Munson says that Puro strives to provide a great atmosphere for all cigar aficionados, including women who like to enjoy a cocktail with their significant other. “Women sometimes feel a bit out of place at some cigar shops,” he says. “We wanted to make Puro a welcoming environment for women as much as for men.”
Although designed to foster relaxation, Puro also provides a hospitable atmosphere for customers have work to do. The lounge offers outlets, USB ports and free Wi-Fi so customers may plug in and work out of the office. In fact, the member’s lounge is available for private meetings, for both members and non-members. They even accommodate early morning summits before the bar is open. The atmosphere of any lounge hinges on the quality of the staff, and Munson strives to make Puro as customer friendly as possible. “I have a passion for the service industry, and I pride myself and Puro on customer service,” he says. “You can build the biggest, baddest place, but if you do not have the staff and the management to keep the customers happy and coming back, you are pretty much dead in the water. The goal is to accommodate everyone that comes through the door, and keep them coming back for more.”