By Alejandro Benes
If you have read my previous dispatches from California over the years, then you know that I have consistently argued that finding a place to smoke a cigar in Los Angeles is not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be. Sure, you can’t smoke anywhere you want and you can’t smoke everywhere, but if you want a comfortable place to enjoy a robusto, there is plenty of choice. That, however, is not the case for Santa Monica. The antismoking sentiment is so strong that enjoying a cigar in a cigar shop is no longer possible. So, David Weiss, the owner of Lone Wolf Cigar Company, which has a shop in Santa Monica, opened up a cigar lounge and club in April 2014 just across the border in Los Angeles.
The space is elegant in its simplicity. There’s a shop out front and through a lone door there is an expansive room with couches and chairs, and a conference table of sorts in the back that reminds one of a library or dining hall. The light fixtures are reminiscent of the “flying saucer” towers at the site of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. There is seating for about 100. The floor is cement and the ceilings high. A bar is being planned for the back. During the day, jazz is on the sound system. That could change later on. There are two TVs.
This is a very L.A. scene. Members come in and use the space as a place to conduct business, though not in a hardcore way. Most of it is guys on their computers (there is WiFi) either writing the new blockbuster or negotiating a big commercial mortgage. OK, I’m speculating, but it could happen. There is a sort of shift change around 4 p.m. as more members come in from their offices and light up. Like most such establishments in L.A., members can bring in food from nearby restaurants.
The lounge is a private club with membership running from $1,500 to $2,000 a year. The higher price includes a humidor locker. An out-of-town membership is $1,000. Weiss said that the club had a “lenient, invitation-only policy for non-members,” but that he was getting a lot of requests from customers who were buying cigars in the shop attached to the lounge. Weiss came up with a solution.
“If you buy a hundred dollars worth of cigars,” he explained, “you get to use the lounge for the day. It’s a one-day, VIP option.”
The idea came to him after he got a call from someone who wanted to have a party in the club. Weiss said it would not be right to let in too many non-members as the members are the ones paying the bill. (Update: Weiss has now extended the offer so that if you buy $1,500 worth of cigars, you get a year’s membership and locker.) Expensive? Yes and no. You are getting the cigars, after all.
The gentlemen who work in the shop and lounge are very knowledgeable about their products. Davidoff is the biggest selling brand, followed by Ashton and Fuente. The lounge has a “No Band Cigar Club” in which participants smoke four or five cigars without the bands on them and learn to appreciate the cigar for the cigar. The hope is to elevate everyone’s palate. That’s great, but it’s just a bonus on top of having another great stop on the L.A. cigar map.
Just remember though. Don’t cross into Santa Monica before you finish your cigar.
The Lone Wolf Cigar Company & Cigar Lounge
11950 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90025
Open Monday through Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to midnight
Sunday: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.