In Los Angeles, the stogie trend hit its peak about eight years ago – about the same time state workplace laws made it largely illegal to smoke indoors. Local cigar lounges took the hit hard; one proprietor estimates that for every three cigar bars in business a decade ago, only one is still here to tell the tale. And the celebrity cigar bars were sold to non-pros years ago.
However, the handful that remain are stalwart and purveyors say that cigars may be ready for a comeback.
“We’re the next Starbucks of cigars,” says David Weiss of Lone Wolf Cigars in Santa Monica. “It’s been a mom-and-pop industry, but that’s not the way we see it.”
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Grand Havana Room
301 N. Canon Drive., Beverly Hills (310) 385-7700
Founded by: The publicly traded company opened in 1995, followed by a Gotham outpost in 1998.
Capacity: About 150.
Brands: About 100.
Best-seller: Arturo Fuente Opus X ($20).
Cigar lockers: 350. Rent one and your neighbors include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Nicholson, Ben Affleck and Dennis Rodman.
Claim to fame: The city’s only private cigar club. Admission comes by invitation only, a $4,000 initiation fee, $225 monthly dues and a one-year waiting list.
Feels like: being inside the world’s priciest humidor. Wood panels and retro leather club chairs rule the décor.
Lone Wolf Fine Cigars
223 Broadway, Santa Monica (310) 458-5441
Founded by: Jim Belushi and Chuck Norris, in 1996. David Weiss bought it in 2000.
Capacity: About a dozen.
Brands: More than 100, including its own Lone Wolf cigars.
Best-seller: Lone Wolf Lobo Fuerte ($8).
Cigar lockers: No. However, Weiss says, “We do take care of a select clientele.”
Claim to fame: The store provided the backdrop for the opening shot of “Rounders.”
Feels like: jock-meets-shabby chic. A booze-free sports bar with a humidor.
Buena Vista Cigar Club
9715 Little Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills (310) 273-8100
Founded by: George Hamilton, in 1995. Rigo Fernandez bought the operation in 2000.
Brands: 30, in 70 sizes.
Best-seller: Camacho Figurabo ($9).
Cigar lockers: No.
Claim to fame: The only stand-alone bar in Los Angeles that allows cigar smoking.
Feels like: you’re getting away with something in the dark upstairs bar.
Cigars by Chivas
58 S. DeLacey, Pasadena (626) 395-7475
Founded by: Former attorney Anto Kamarian, in 1995.
Best-seller: Davidoff Anniversario No. 3. ($18).
Cigar lockers: 86. Annual rental is $300 and first-timers must also purchase two boxes of cigars.
Claim to fame: The back room, for repeat customers.
Feels like: the smokeshop that time forgot with its chess and backgammon sets, flat-panel TVs and a pressed-tin ceiling.
Schatzi on Main
3110 Main St., Santa Monica (310) 399-4800
Founded by: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Capacity: Schatzi maintains a “cigar patio” that holds 90.
Brands: Next door to Schatzi is Hollywood Smoke, which sells 140 brands.
Best-seller: Owner Greg Shahbazian won’t say other than, “I sell too much.” He also sells the Cigar Calendar, which features retro-classy black-and-white pinups posing with their favorite smokes.
Cigar lockers: Hollywood Smoke offers lockers for $45 and up.
Claim to fame: Schatzi hosts $85-per-person cigar dinners on the first Monday of every month.
Feels like: a restaurant that likes smokers.