Columbus Dispatch – Central Ohio lounges provide upscale outlet for cigar smoking – 3/3

By Megan Henry
Posted Sep 5, 2018 at 8:19 PM
Updated Sep 6, 2018 at 5:19 AM
The new Royale Cigar Lounge on the West Side offers cigars from $5 to $100 in a luxurious setting, but it’s another item that helps set
the shop apart: liquor.

The lounge is one of central Ohio’s few cigar shops to offer a drink — and food — with a smoke. The drinks and the upscale ambience
illustrate the growing effort of central Ohio cigar shops to widen their audience beyond their middle-age male core.
Ohio law bans smoking in bars, but not in establishments that derive at least 80 percent of their revenue from tobacco sales. Since Royale
Cigar Lounge is a tobacco wholesaler, it can meet the threshold while still serving drinks.

Owner Ammar Karmi deliberately keeps drink prices high — $15 for a typical shot and up to $35 for premium drinks — to keep down

“We upcharge all the liquor to discourage people from coming in and pounding (drinks),” he said.
For some smokers, the ability to sip a whiskey while puffing a cigar is huge.

“I think a lot of the cigar shops around the area in central Ohio, and just in Ohio in general, would do better if they had cocktails,” said
Bill Smith, 47, a patron of Burning Leaf Fine Cigars in German Village for 14 years, which does not sell alcohol.
Karmi opened Royale Cigar Lounge, 297 Georgesville Road, in June, the latest of an estimated 40 central Ohio shops that sell cigars.
With comfortable leather chairs, a massive ventilation system, televisions and a fireplace, the shop is designed as a place to relax and

Jerry Sexton comes to the lounge almost every day during the week, even if it means driving more than 15 miles from his Gahanna

“I’ve been to a lot of cigar shops, there’s nothing laid out like this,” said Sexton, 49. “This is upscale big time.”
Central Ohio lounges provide upscale outlet for cigar smoking

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During his visits, he orders a sandwich, smokes a cigar and works on his laptop.
“It’s what I call my office,” Sexton said.

Karmi and other cigar shop owners see the audience broadening for their wares.
“It’s not just the old, white men that smoke cigars,” he said. “Now it’s going across the board.”

An estimated 4 percent of adults 18 to 29 smoke cigars, twice the rate of all adults, according to a 2015 Gallup survey. Two percent of
female adults smoke cigars, compared with 8 percent of adult males, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People see their favorite character smoking cigars in movies or on television and give it a try, said Wade Barnett, manager of
Montecristo House of Cigar in the Short North.

“Build it and they’ll come,” Barnett said, referring to cigar shops.
Anthony Bozeman is planning on taking cigars on the road with a mobile cigar lounge called Ash Aficionado he hopes to launch in
March. The mobile cigar lounge will be in a vintage Airstream RV and can fit 14 to 16 people.

“I can go to a venue, set up and you can come in and smoke,” said Bozeman, 56.
He plans to go to weddings Downtown, golf courses and private parties, as well as tailgates at Ohio State football games.
“I’m looking forward to bringing something new to Columbus,” Bozeman said.
Businesses are getting into cigars in other ways, as well.

The Royal Rhino Club Barbershop and Lounge in Italian Village has a small selection of cigar brands that customers can buy but can’t
smoke in the shop, manager Larryn Houser said.
“It’s kind of part of our aesthetic,” she said.
Once a month, Park Street Cantina hosts cigar nights, pairing whiskeys and tequilas with cigars, said Sam Michael, one of the owners.
“We try to provide something unique to our visitors,” Michael said.

Karmi hopes to draw customers from the Hollywood Casino, which sits catty-corner across Georgesville Road.
10/8/2018 Central Ohio lounges provide upscale outlet for cigar smoking

“There’s nowhere here to hang out for casino-goers,” Karmi said. “It’s just something else to do for people going to the casino.”

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