Cigar smoking, which took off in the 1980s and ’90s, hasn’t really abated despite the constant threat from new laws. The reopening of US–Cuba relations has brought new attention to the fabled Cuban cigar, and Americans are eagerly awaiting the first batch to arrive on our shores.
Josh DeSiena, owner of Doc James Cigar Lounge in Mamaroneck, says more lounges have been popping up in Westchester County over the last three to four years because cigar smoking has been transformed from a mere product into an experience.
“When cigars got really popular in the mid-to-late ’90s, it was about buying a cigar,” he says. “That changed over the last six years because of smoking bans. So now it’s not only about finding a product you enjoy or experimenting with different products but also finding an environment in which to enjoy them.”
The impact of Cuban cigars is the million-dollar question, but DeSiena says Cubans are not really the best in the world anymore. “They will be at a premium price, so they’ll have to go up in quality,” DeSiena says. “You probably won’t see the traditional 100-percent Cuban anymore. They’ll start blending. Nicaraguan, Brazilian, Ecuadoran, Honduran and tobaccos from the Dominican Republic are among the best right now.”
It helps when your lounge is located in an old horse barn built in the 1830s, as Doc James’ is. But even shop owners who aren’t blessed with a fabulous piece of real estate can benefit from what DeSiena has learned:
The three elements of a good cigar bar: “One is the quality of the brands. Then, the lounge has to be comfortable and nice. Third, the staff must be knowledgeable.”
Membership has its privileges” “Anybody can buy a cigar and sit down, but members get privileges such as discounts on cigars and accessories.”
Cost may be overrated: “Cigars are becoming like bourbons and craft beers, where there’s an endless array of tobacco and technology that is through the roof,” DeSiena says. “Every single cigar that comes out these days is good quality, but you don’t need to pay premium prices to get a good product.”
Some cigar lounges have memberships; most offer an area for non-members, with purchase.
Cigar Emporium, 777 Central Ave, Yonkers. Membership: $125/month with $75 credit back on cigars.
Republica Cigar Lounge, 550 Gramatan Ave, Mount Vernon. Membership: $1,750/year, includes 20 cigars every quarter.
Cousin’s Cigar & Hookah Lounge, 245 Main St, New Rochelle. No membership fee, public welcome with $5 purchase.
Mom’s Cigar Warehouse, 1119 Central Ave, Scarsdale. No membership fee, public welcome with $10 purchase.
The Cigar Republic, 116 S Central Ave, Elmsford. Membership: $900/year, guest fees apply for non-members.
Hatuey Cigars NY, 164 East Boston Post Rd, Mamaroneck. No membership required.
Doc James Cigar Lounge, 133 E Prospect Ave, Mamaroneck. Membership (not required): $35-$45/month with one free cigar of the month, discounts on purchases.
Doc James 312 Cigar Club, 952 E Main St, Shrub Oak. Members only, $400-$600/year.