The cigar lounge is an excellent place for like-minded individuals to relax, network and get together with friends. For those who do attend, many use the opportunity to learn more about cigars, sample various cigars and purchase them as well. There are many types of cigar lounges, but for the most part, the same rules apply.
Of course etiquette can be drummed down simply by saying treat others the way you would want to be treated, but if we left it at that, it would make for a very short article.
Types of Lounges
There are four types of cigar lounges typically found in North American and Europe with two categories that each of the types fit into.
Member Only Lounges
These are the lounges that only permit registered members and their visiting guests. The lounge may simply be an establishment that charges a nominal fee to access or it could be a lounge owned by a private members club or country club. Either way, these lounges are home for its members and visitors should pay extra attention to the rules in an effort to ensure members don’t become offended by their behavior.
These are bonafide cigar lounges where the purpose of being their is to enjoy a fine cigar and mingle with other guests. This type of lounge is open to the general public, but will probably have it’s fair share of regulars who view themselves as members or family of the lounge. If you are new to a public lounge, you should remember to treat yourself as a visitor or guest until you’ve determined that you’re not being viewed as an outsider.
Cigar Shops with Lounges
This is a very common type of lounge in North America. First and foremost, it’s a tobacconist where their primary role is selling cigars and perhaps pipe tobacco. They will have a smoking lounge that’s available for their customers to use, sometimes requiring you to prebook space, but often open for use anytime. Like other lounges, they may have their own regulars. One local lounge in my area is frequented by the same group of individuals every lunch hour as they work in the office building next door.
Establishments with Lounges
This type of lounge isn’t exclusively intended as a cigar lounge, but is usually instead a restaurant, bar or nightclub that has a designated smoking section for cigars, or in some cases, all forms of tobacco including cigarettes.
Regardless of what type of lounge you visit, they all typically fall into one of two categories.
This is quiet, library style bar similar to a piano lounge where customers come to relax and unwind in a serene and relaxing environment. Typically there will be soft music and similar to airport lounges will offer a variety of newspapers, magazines and have a fully stocked bar to serve drinks and often food. This is not a party atmosphere. Visitors should be mindful that since it’s a place to relax, many won’t enjoy the company of others outside their own inner circle. If you do intend to enter into a discussion with someone in this type of environment, it’s important to be respectful of their time and mindful that they may not be looking to meet someone. Just as you wouldn’t approach a random stranger sitting at a table in a fine dining restaurant, you shouldn’t approach a stranger here looking to talk – unless of course you know them or they appear open to communicating.
This is a very popular style of cigar lounge and acts more as a bar or social club than the library lounge does. Often they will show sporting events on large television screens, they are rarely quiet and are typically frequented by a younger clientele looking for a good time with other men and women who enjoy cigars. Often they’ll feature classic pub style menus and live music or dancing. You won’t find me in one of these lounges, but they are very popular.
Regulars, Members and Visitors
There are usually three types of people that frequent lounges. Regulars, members and visitors.
These are the men and women who pay a fee to belong to a private members club and its lounge. They’re usually very protective of the lounge and take a little bit longer to open up to newcomers unless you’re there as a guest of a well respected member. It’s important when interacting with members in their own lounge that you respect them, the rules of the club and any dress code that may be in effect.
Forgive me, but these are usually one of two types of people. Either they’re very welcome and kind but spend a lot of time at a specific lounge and know the staff and other regulars who they spend a great deal of time interacting with; or they’re the kind of people who will remind you of high school cliques. They stick together, don’t welcome newcomers or visitors with open arms and are often antagonistic towards those outside their inner circle. Generally they feel like they have more rights to be in the lounge than you do and aren’t afraid to publicly state that. This isn’t so much the case at library style lounges but can be very prominent in the more active social lounges and the cigar shop lounge areas. So long as you treat them with respect, tip the staff well and abide by the rules, you shouldn’t have any trouble. Of course, it never hurts to buy a round of drinks or cigars for them.
Picking a Lounge to Visit
This can be very challenging for people who travel regularly and like to find local lounges to visit. Of course you run the risk that you’re going to walk into the wrong environment. Like bars, there are very nice and respectable lounges but there are also the scummy lounges on the side of the freeway that you practically need a shot of penicillin to enter.
The best tip I can suggest is to first decide whether you’re looking to relax or socialize and once you’ve determined which style of lounge, ask for references from local tobacconists, or if you’re traveling, from the concierge at your hotel.
For the most part the dress code is dependent on the type of lounge you plan to visit. Some private member lounges require a jacket and tie whereas some sports lounges only require shoes and a t-shirt. A standard rule of thumb when visiting a lounge that you’re not sure of the dress code is to dress up rather than down. Typically anything you would wear to a dinner at your country club is appropriate for the cigar lounge. A pair of trousers, a sports jacket and a golf shirt is acceptable at virtually any establishment. If you’re still unsure, call and ask. Just keep in mind that whatever you wear will probably smell of cigar smoke when you leave.
Buying vs Bringing
One topic of contention with cigar lounges is whether it’s appropriate to bring your own cigars if they sell them. This is especially tricky when visiting a tobacconist as obviously, their primary role is selling cigars. They simply offer a place to allow you to smoke it, with the intent being that you’ll be smoking one of their cigars.
This is troubling for me, since I’m very particular about how long my cigar has aged in the humidor. When you buy a cigar from any lounge, including a tobacconist, it’s almost impossible to know how long the cigar has been in their humidor. For all you know, it arrived just a week ago after sitting on a loading dock or in a warehouse for six months. My rule of thumb is I always bring my own cigars to smoke but I also always buy cigars from their humidor. Of course, it’s important to ask them if you can smoke your own cigars, but most tobacconists are fine with that because they understand your point of view on aging the cigar properly. In fact, I’ve even been complimented by a tobacconist for bringing my own cigars. If they do have an issue with you smoking your own cigar, then you either have the choice to leave and go elsewhere, or to try and select a cigar that’s perfectly aged.
Picking Your Cigar
If you are going to be purchasing a cigar from the humidor, there are a few hard and fast rules that should be observed.
Almost every humidor will have a resident expert that can provide you with the best information on their selection. This person should be your new best friend. Draw on their experience and take their advice. They know what they’re talking about. Usually.
It’s okay to touch cigars, but that doesn’t mean you should squeeze them, put them in or against your nose, and definitely don’t taste them. I’ve seen all of these acts done in person and there’s no bigger turn off for the other customers. No one wants a cigar that you just pushed against your nostril, licked or squeezed the life out of. Cigars should be handled with care. Rolling it gently between your fingers is enough to tell if the cigar is well rolled and fresh. Sniffing it from a few inches a way will give you a general idea of the aroma and as for tasting it, you’ll just have to wait until after you bought it. However, that is where the experts come in and when you should ask for their opinion. One final tip: if the cigar is individually packaged in plastic, don’t remove it from the casing. That pleasure is reserved for the person who purchases it.
The Cigar Accessories
When smoking a cigar at a lounge, many lounges will offer communal cutters, ashtrays and lighters or matches.
If you are using the communal tools that are shared with others, it’s very important to make sure you treat them the way you would want others to treat them.
When I interviewed the famous and stunningly beautiful Cigar Vixen about her etiquette tips, she mentioned that one of her pet peeves is when people lick the head of the cigar and then cut it with a communal cutter. If you’re going to taste the wrapper, make sure you bring your own cutter. No one wants to share your saliva or germs.
When it comes to ash trays, most lounges will have enough that you won’t have to share. However, if you do have to share, make sure you give space to the other smokers and don’t leave your cigar in the tray or make a mess with the ash. One of the most important rules of thumb and that’s to NEVER butt out your cigar. If you’ve read other cigar etiquette guide you know that a cigar is mean’t to extinguish naturally on its own. Stamping it out is an insult to the cigar and the others in the lounge with you.
I asked a number of women how they would like to be treated in cigar lounges. Surprisingly, both said they just wanted to be treated the same as everyone else. Of course that doesn’t mean talking about the girl you just slept with the night before or cursing wildly. So long as you’re being respectful however, neither of them wanted to be treated any different than the men in there.
With that said, of course it should also be noted that a cigar lounge is not typically the place to meet women. No one’s saying that you can’t flirt appropriately, but it’s not a meat market and since women are typically the minority in cigar lounges, they shouldn’t be made to feel like they’re on display. In other words, welcome them politely and act appropriately. This isn’t a nightclub.
For the most part the rules at a cigar lounge are simple. Treat others with respect. Treat the lounge with respect and in turn, you’ll be respected. With that said, if you are interested in learning about the etiquette behind cutting, lighting and smoking a cigar, click here.
What’s your favorite cigar lounge?