Amid the Riots, Vandals Ransack Cigar Shops

June 2, 2020

By Gregory Mottola - Cigar Aficionado

Just as the United States starts to slowly re-open and come out of the Covid-19 economic shutdown city by city, many retail stores across the country must now contend with a violent wave of vandalism, arson and looting that’s come with some of the protests responding to the death of George Floyd. And that includes cigar shops.

Totaled. Devasted. Ravaged. These were the words used by David Weiss to describe what happened to The Lone Wolf Cigar Co. (pictured above) in Santa Monica, California. His store windows were shattered and his retail space was ransacked two nights ago during one of the nation’s many simultaneous riots. The Lone Wolf Cigar Co. has been serving Santa Monica since 1996.

“Everything was taken or destroyed,” he told Cigar Aficionado. Weiss, who owns a second Lone Wolf shop in West Los Angeles, estimates hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

“This is heartbreaking for us, but much worse for our world,” said Weiss, adding that he had just reopened a few days ago after being closed for months due to the pandemic.

It was a similar story in Minneapolis, the city in Minnesota where Floyd was killed on May 25, sparking protests that later spread across the country. Anthony’s Pipe & Cigar Lounge on West Lake Street suffered extensive damage from a protest that turned destructive.

“They broke all my cabinets, everything was shattered, they broke my humidor,” Tom Harlan told Marketplace, a radio program regularly broadcast on local media stations. Harlan runs the shop, which is located in downtown Minneapolis and was vandalized two nights ago.

“They broke into the office, they broke my safe, they blew up one of my security cameras. They even took the plywood off the barber shop across the street and broke the glass and went in there,” he said.

Destruction also descended upon King’s Leaf Cigar Lounge in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. According to a report by The Post & Courier, shop owner Brian Lucier had just re-opened the store after being closed for months due to the mandatory Covid shutdown. When another protest in Charleston’s Marion Square turned violent on Saturday night, rioters hurled stones through the front windows of his cigar shop.

“All this just adds insult to injury,” he told The Post. “We’ve been bleeding for three months now and then this happens.”

Meanwhile in downtown Chicago, vandals also hit the Hubbard & State Cigar Shop. “They broke everything inside. All the cabinets. My cash register is gone. My computer is gone,” owner Rocky Mehra told WBEZ in a report. He added that “a lot of inventory, a lot of cigarettes, cigars, lighters. They’re all gone.”

One man in Bellevue, Washington, however, wasn’t going to take it lying down. A video posted on Twitter shows a person in a cowboy hat pointing a handgun at several masked looters inside a strip mall smoke shop called Cigar Land. They all filed out of the shop, one by one, mostly with their hands up, as the man with gun shouted, “Move, move, move!” Another armed man could also be seen holstering his gun and walking out of Cigar Land once the looters had left.

No injuries were reported in any of these instances.

Andrew Nagy contributed to this report.

One Crisis Breeds Another In Las Vegas, Nevada

May 29, 2020

by J. Glynn Loope, Executive Director of CRA

As the premium cigar industry confronts a different day due to the virus pandemic, with canceled trade shows, as well as local, regional and national cigar events, once again, our opponents are creeping up behind us to use a national crisis, to advance their prohibitionist agenda. It's happening from small communities in Indiana, to the southern tip of Louisiana. For the industry's (from manufacturer to consumer) direct interests however, the new front line in this battle is Las Vegas, Nevada.

Las Vegas is the Holy Ground of cigar freedom in the United States. Making the pilgrimage to Casa Fuente, and then the cigar bar and lounge circuit where you can spend hours with friends, then go to the next one, is for many among the most anticipated times of the year. The Cigar Aficionado Big Smoke Vegas is such a tradition, that many from literally around the world plan their vacations and travel a year in advance, in order to participate with their like-minded brethren.

Then there are the trade shows. Between the trade shows of the Premium Cigar Association ("PCA") and Tobacco Plus Expo, thousands of Vegas room nights are occupied, providing direct and significant benefits for restaurants, bars and performances to a city that has recently, been brought to the brink of economic armageddon.

While I really don't enjoy quoting former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his statement "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you think could not be done before," is exactly what opponents are doing now in Las Vegas, and in other parts of the country. 

As Las Vegas has been developing its strategies for reopening, placing restrictions on smoking has been at the forefront of the new wave of thinking. The non-profit health care organizations, labor unions and the media have been promoting a smoke-free Vegas, since the beginning of this crisis (and before.) When letters to the editor from citizens are quoting CDC and WHO statistics, someone else is behind it. 

If there is one body of evidence on the detrimental economic impact of smoking bans, it's with the gaming industry. Objective studies have been produced by none other than the United States Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis addressing the loss of revenue for Illinois casinos, producing a report "No Ifs Ands or Butts: Illinois Casinos Lost Revenue After Smoking Banned," where they stated "as policy makers in Illinois and elsewhere ponder the implications of the Illinois smoking ban, the impact on revenue, attendance and taxes, should not be ignored." I have spoken to one of the report's authors, Dr. Michael Pakko on his studies on the economic consequences of smoking bans from Delaware to California, and he told me of how he is only allowed to use standard government statistics in his reports. No tobacco money. 

The Harrah's casino in New Orleans almost immediately lost $70 million and cut hundreds of jobs in the wake of the New Orleans City Council passage of their sweeping smoking ban (making it no accident that the current ban proposal in Shreveport exempts casinos) then there was the flip-flopping on smoking restrictions in Atlantic City casinos, and the former Trump Casino, now the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Indiana noted to their local government that a smoking ban would eliminate 400 jobs.

In a letter to the FDA opposing regulations that could harm the premium cigar industry, Mr. Trevor Scherrer, President of The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas stated that "this one event," the Cigar Aficionado Big Smoke has a "$6,625,000 nongaming economic impact on our community." And that's just for one weekend. Let's hope we don't have to begin discussing specific exemptions, to protect such events as Big Smoke and trade shows. 

When CRA awarded former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman an Honorary Lifetime Membership for his opposition to a local or statewide smoking ban he told me, "If they pass it, they'll lose their shirts." Let's hope his wife, the current mayor, recognizes that. 

NOW is the time to get in front of a potentially disastrous situation. NOW is the time to meet with the American Gaming Association, Nevada Resorts Association, Nevada Gaming Control Board, Las Vegas City Council and Mayor Carolyn Goodman. NOW is the time to meet and communicate with Governor Steve Sisolak and members of the Nevada legislature, where such issues will be decided. NOW, is the time for the CRA, PCA, CAA, and NATO to unify to protect what could be, the cigar industry's Alamo. 

We will be amassing a library of the economic evidence needed for this effort. CRA will also begin a strategy to have our local and state members reach out to decision makers, as this issue continues to crystallize. That, is just the beginning. 

Senate Bill 793 - Banning Flavored Tobacco Products

May 15, 2020

To Our Valued Customers,

At JMG International, Inc., we want to keep you informed of what is going on in the tobacco industry, especially when it impacts you directly. Last week, Senate Bill No. 793 passed out of the Senate Health Committee. This bill presents a danger to all tobacco product manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers in the State of California.

The issue at hand is, Senate Bill No. 793 is attempting to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products by definition, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco and snuff, without clearly defining it in the bill itself. One has to search through the myriad of rules and regulations in order to learn that this bill discriminates against lawful tobacco products sold throughout the world and wishes to prevent their sale within California. We take exception to the assumptions being made in light of reading background information and between the lines to understand the real intent.

There is nothing contained that precludes manufacturers outside the State of California to sell flavored tobacco products directly to consumers online, thereby depriving the State of California the legitimate tobacco taxes that apply.

We urge you to contact the Governor of California, your State Senator and your local Assemblymember and voice your opposition to Senate Bill No. 793.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A SAMPLE LETTER

Wake up! It's not too late!

Here are the addresses to contact your local government official: 

Governor Gavin Newsom

1303 10th Street, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

Senator Jerry Hill

1528 South El Camino Real, Suite 303

San Mateo, CA 94402

 

CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR LOCAL ASSEMBLYMEMBER