World renowned London cigar store
Cigar Cafe
Cigar Cafe

Cigar Cafe

NICK HAMMOND delves deep to tell us what he feels is missing from London’s wonderful cigar store jigsaw puzzle…

WHAT innovations are left in the cigar world?

What things would you like to see change? I don’t mean silly fads or marketing gimmicks, but new and interesting ways of doing things and offering value and intrigue?

I was pondering this the other day after a conversation with El Jefe, Laurence Davis. I was saying that I felt there was something missing in terms of the London cigar lounge scene, and yet when he asked me what it was, or what I would like to see, I couldn’t really put my finger on it.

The gist of what I was saying was that while there are dozens of wonderful – and high end – cigar establishments in London – what isn’t is a more everyday sort of cigar place.

While I was in Ybor City, Tampa, last year, researching for Around The World In 80 Cigars – There and Back Again, I quickly found a home from home along the main drag of ‘cigar city.’ There, a no-frills, come one, come all cigar lounge exists; and it pretty much ticks all the boxes. It’s open from around 10am until 1am.No complaints there. It has a vast range of cigars in well-kept, easily visible, humidified cabinets. There’s a full bar, offering everything from icy Guinness to a selection of cocktails, coffee and local draft ales. There’s a café menu, so you can grab a sandwich or snack to stave off hunger. There’s indoor and outdoor seating – plenty of it – so that there is always room for you to park yourself somewhere quiet if you want to smoke with a good book, or even at the bar if you fancy a chat with the friendly bar staff. It isn’t outrageously expensive; you can have a smoke or two and a few drinks and still have change from 50 or 60 bucks. There are regulars (one, a college Professor who came in during the morning and worked for most of the rest of the day using the store’s wifi, coffee and good cigars to fuel his marking of dissertations).

There are weekly competitions in which you could win cigars and accessories, and all in all, it is obviously a real community place. Everyone knows everyone else, and within a couple of visits, I was welcomed like an old friend. This place quickly became my downtime rest in between my investigative forays.

It is called King Corona Cigars and you need to visit.

Now, I realise many of these things are an impossibility in the UK due not least to massive taxes, ridiculous business rates etc, but my point is, we are fixated with high-end, fancy-shmancy, uber expensive cigar offerings. How about we redress the balance and offer something that everyone can consider partaking in? I for one think a cigar café, appealing to a broader spectrum of interest and offering the average guy on the street the option of grabbing a smoke and a chat after work before he heads home, would be a huge boon to the existing offerings. Perhaps it would need to be out of town somewhere less pricey in order for it to be financially viable.

And maybe it’s just wishful thinking; the US is able to do these things and we can’t hope to match them. But I still think the concept is a wonderful one and a great way to enjoy cigars with like-minded people without having to remortgage your home.

3 Responses

  1. Very good point. Most sampling lounges are a touch intimidating or off putting. An everyday walk in establishment that’s nice but not too grand would be ideal. Personally prefer a tea/coffee with a cigar over a spirit.
    Our current government seems insistent on more tobacco regulation so it maybe a tough journey to get there.

  2. New York City here. Unfortunately the city is at war with cigar smokers whilst at the same time encouraging and actually selling marijuana which stinks to high heaven. I fear the war on tobacco in America will limit the expansion of cigar lounges for the foreseeable future. And that’s a sad thing. I loved Nick Hammond’s hook and of course the wonderful videos with Laurence. They remind us of the absolute joy of sharing a good cigar and a few hours of conversation and camaraderie with our fellow humans. And in this disjointed digital age where people have their noses buried in their cell phones, we need more direct connection to our “fellow travelers to the grave” as Dickens once said.

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