The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

March 12, 2007

Cigar Clubs

Back when I was living in Lake Forest, California, right around the corner was a place called Club Aficionado (caution on the link, it doesn’t like Firefox. Jerks). I went in there one day to check them out, and realized it wasn’t only a cigar store, it was a private club. In the back, they had a full bar, tables, big-screen TV, etc. They were telling me all about the local big-wigs who were members. I thought about it, figured out how much it cost to be a member, and decided I could make much better use of the money.

Since then, I’ve visited another local cigar club called Red Cloud. My future brother-in-law is a member, so the last time I was in California we stopped off for a smoke and a couple games of chess in the lounge. At the time, I started wondering if a business like this would make sense here in Georgia. After all, I’m in a relatively affluent area where something like this might give big-wigs a chance to hobnob with each other.

But then I realized a crucial difference between Georgia and California. In Georgia, it’s not illegal to smoke in public establishments. Thus, for California to even have a cigar bar, they must create a private club in which to enclose it.

Now, as my brother-in-law pointed out, they’re not just selling a place to smoke a cigar. They’re selling a bit of exclusivity. After all, we were there on a Saturday night at 9 PM, and the place was only mildly crowded. If you’re like me, and you like to sit at a bar and have a drink without the constant smash of people running into you, reaching over you, and generally invading your personal space, it makes a lot of sense. And because it’s a paid membership, there is a vested interest in making sure that your needs are catered to. Which is nice.

But when I had thought initially about the idea of a place like this opening in Georgia, I thought only of the benefits of private membership. I hadn’t considered the fact that private membership would be a legal necessity for the place to even exist. Could a place like this live outside of the legal constructs that California imposed? After all, I might be willing to spend a few hundred bucks a year for a membership to a nice private cigar bar, if it was the only place I could smoke a cigar. But I wouldn’t be willing to do so if there were free cigar bars around, which is something that doesn’t exist in California.

What this brings up is a nice example of the Bootlegger and the Baptist (also see this excellent Econtalk podcast with Bruce). This economic theory described by Bruce Yandle suggests that while a southern Baptist might fight to stop Sunday sales of alcohol in order to assuage his conscience, there is an economic benefit to the bootlegger who fills the market niche of selling alcohol illegally on Sundays at a very high profit. The bootlegger and the baptist aren’t working together, but they exist in a mutually beneficial arrangement (hurting only the consumer).

I think this is the same situation. In California, the nanny statists have decided that private property is public, and thus they can stop us from smoking to protect us from ourselves. This, though, hasn’t stopped the desire of individuals to go out and have a drink and a cigar. So a secondary industry springs up, charging people membership fees in order to legitimize their right to have a cigar in “public”. The nanny statists are happy (well, not as happy as they would be if they stopped it completely). The owners of the cigar clubs are happy, because they’re charging several hundred of dollars a year (over a thousand for a storage locker for your smokes) in order for the privilege of smoking in their establishment. The only people hurt, as is usually the case, is the consumer, who ends up spending a lot of money or losing his freedom.

The cigar club that we went to was a very nice place. I got to sit in a nice, comfy, high-backed leather chair, and proceed to beat the pants off my brother-in-law in chess (twice, actually). All the while I was smoking a very fine cigar and drinking an Arrogant Bastard. All in all, it was quite an enjoyable hour as we killed time before heading to a poker game. In fact, it’s someplace that I might consider joining if I lived there and thought I’d use it enough. But let’s remember exactly why it exists: because government took away freedom.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:36 pm || Permalink || Comments (6) || Trackback URL || Categories: Economics, Libertarianism, Ponderings


  1. My dad use to say, that the liquor laws allowed the preacher to have his liquor delivered by the bootleggers. Otherwise his habits would be known to the congregation.

    Comment by VRB — March 12, 2007 @ 11:34 pm
  2. From what I know about Atlantans, I think your business idea would work.

    Comment by VRB — March 12, 2007 @ 11:37 pm
  3. you say that smoking laws are taking away freedoms. perhaps so, for the smoker. but, to the non-smoker and those who work in smoky environments, what about my right to breathe relatively unpolluted air?

    as it is, the clean air laws have pretty much snuffed out smoking in most other workplaces and commercial environs, so is extending those laws to cover restaurants, bars, and bowling alleys that much of a stretch?

    Comment by mabus — March 13, 2007 @ 10:33 am
  4. VRB,

    I think it’s possible that such a private club would work here in Atlanta, but I doubt it would become as common as in California, due to the legal differences.


    It comes down to a question of private property rights. As a business owner, I should be able to determine whether smoking is allowed on my property. It is not a “public” place, it is my property and I can decide whether to allow smoking or not. Perhaps for a full explanation, you might want to read my post on Brad’s Smoking And Bare-Knuckle Boxing Emporium.

    Whether it’s a “stretch” or not, it is imposing on the freedom of business owners to offer the ability to smoke on their property, and to consumers by taking away their freedom to patronize such businesses.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — March 13, 2007 @ 10:51 am
  5. mabus, I wonder if the non smokers want the right not to see smoking rather than being not exposed to second hand smoke. Before our city imposed a smoking ban, I was in a bar/restaurant where there was a smoking section, the ventilation was such that even though I could see the smoker I could not smell the smoke. I don’t think there has been any monitoring of those kinds of establishments to see if indeed the area inside or outside the smoking area was polluted and actually posed a health risk.

    Comment by VRB — March 13, 2007 @ 12:49 pm
  6. I don’t smoke but I do love those little wooden boxes that the cigars come in.

    Comment by Lucy Stern — March 15, 2007 @ 9:42 am

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