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Article from Vancouver Sun today. RE: Man Cave

In the man-cave, real men smoke cigars

Society of Unrepentant Cigar Connoisseurs was born after members ran out of public places to smoke

By Pete McMartin, Vancouver SunNovember 27, 2009

Roger Mah enjoys a fine cigar in a leased house, where members of the Society of Unrepentant Cigar Connoisseurs may smoke legally.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Sun

I drove down an alley, as I had been instructed to do. I found the unmarked door that had been described to me. It had a reinforced lock and a peephole. It was in a neighbourhood somewhere in Metro Vancouver. More than that I had sworn not to divulge.

Inside, there was a big room about the size of a four-car garage. It was decorated in the style of . . . how to put this? . . . You know that pair of old sweatpants you put on when you get home from work? Like that. In the middle of the room were a dozen comfy armchairs and two overstuffed sofas. They were arranged in rows, and they faced a big-screen TV on the wall. On the TV, the Dallas Cowboys-Oakland Raiders game was in progress. There were two old refrigerators in the room, and a second-hand stove, and a big boardroom table, and a couple of barbecues, and a high narrow table you could lean up against while you drank, and a cabinet filled with what looked like a dozen different scotches and bourbons, and three dartboards with scoring boards and an air-hockey table. The walls were decorated with sports memorabilia and posters -- including a big one of Muhammad Ali -- and hung up on the wall next to the flat-screen TV was a T-shirt with "Mitchell" printed on its back. At the far end of the room, up against the wall, was a glass-fronted cabinet. It was padlocked and stocked with a half-dozen open boxes of Honduran cigars. They were lovely to look at. Against the opposite wall, in another cabinet, was a sign with the letters S-U-C-C written on it. "SUCC" stood for The Society of Unrepentant Cigar Connoisseurs, and this was their secret clubhouse.

"It's a man-cave," Roger Mah said, not a little proudly. "It was a real mess when we got it, but the members cleaned it up pretty good."

Mah founded SUCC a couple of years ago out of desperation, the cause of which we shall get to in a moment. He has smoked cigars since someone offered him one at a wedding 25 years ago -- it was a Cuban Montecristo No. 4, as he recalls -- and now he might smoke a half-dozen a week. He has his own man-cave at home, he said, where he and his wife, also a cigar aficionado, can smoke their stogies in peace. The room has a 106-inch drop-down TV screen with Surround Sound, a gas fireplace, a collection of cigar memorabilia, a pair of La-Z-Boy recliners and a commercial-grade air evacuation system that can clear the room of cigar smoke within seconds.

Ask him why he loves cigars and Mah doesn't have an exact answer: Why do some people like wine, he said. The junction of taste, smell and feel of cigars just did something for him, he said, plus the camaraderie that cigars seem to encourage. A cigar makes one feel expansive and celebratory of the small fine things in life, and that, Mah said, is something he enjoys sharing with others.

That camaraderie is what led to SUCC. A few years ago, he said, a bunch of guys liked to go to a certain cigar shop and smoke. It got so they started meeting on a certain night, and they would sit around and smoke and talk. But then came a succession of non-smoking bylaws from the province and the municipality where the cigar shop was located. When Mah and his buddies couldn't smoke in the shop, they started smoking outside near it. When the law prohibited smoking near a door or window, they went looking for a restaurant with an open patio. They found one, but then patrons inside started to complain about the smell of the cigars. So they moved on to another restaurant, and then another. And then the law banned outside smoking on patios. The group was in danger of breaking up.

But then, serendipity. After a meeting, they decided to do what a group in New Jersey had done -- they would look for a house to lease. One of the guys in the group knew a guy in real estate, who knew where such a house might be had for a reasonable price. It was zoned residential. Therefore, they could smoke in it legally. To pay the lease, each member pays $600 a year, or $50 a month.

So if it was legal, Mah was asked, why the secrecy about it? They didn't want to go begging trouble, Mah said. They feared the zealousness of crusading anti-smokers. "We feel we have to be clandestine about it," Mah said, "because of the bylaws. We feel the bylaw people can't be trusted."

And the only reason he talked to me, he said, was that he wanted to show the lengths that a cigar-lover had to go these days to have a smoke with a bunch of his buddies. They had been driven underground, and there were rumours, he said, of other groups around the Metro area that had formed similar clubs or were operating out of "smoke-easies" -- the kind where you knock on a door and give a secret password to gain entrance.

Mah's group, incidentally, shuns the elitism often associated with cigar smoking. The club is a mix of all sorts of backgrounds -- lawyers, labourers, executives, mechanics. Mah is a paramedic. The club has about 30 members, he said, with room for about 10 more.

So how can you, dear cigar-loving reader, go about joining this club?

I haven't got the slightest idea what you're talking about.

Comments

  • YankeeManYankeeMan Posts: 2,246 ✭✭✭✭
    It's pretty sad when you have to go to such lengths to enjoy a smoke. My fear is that New York state is not too far behind. You cannot smoke inside any building in NYS and depending on which county you live in, you can't smoke within 25 or 50 feet of an entrance.

    The City of Ithaca where I live, is now trying to make an entire block of a street non-smoking because there are a number of restaurants with outdoor seating on that block. Of course, this comes from the same city council that made Ithaca a nuclear free zone!
  • Matt MarvelMatt Marvel Posts: 930
    It's ridiculous that they had to go this far, but it's a pretty cool idea. I wonder how the lawmakers would feel if we went after something that they enjoy?
  • phobicsquirrelphobicsquirrel Posts: 7,349
    YankeeMan:
    It's pretty sad when you have to go to such lengths to enjoy a smoke. My fear is that New York state is not too far behind. You cannot smoke inside any building in NYS and depending on which county you live in, you can't smoke within 25 or 50 feet of an entrance.

    The City of Ithaca where I live, is now trying to make an entire block of a street non-smoking because there are a number of restaurants with outdoor seating on that block. Of course, this comes from the same city council that made Ithaca a nuclear free zone!
    I do agree that people shouldn't be able to smoke indoors (unless it's a cigar bar or smoking bar) and near the entrances. As Most people who smoke near the entrances smoke cigarettes and they really give me headaches. Though I think that is where it needs to stop.
  • Garen BGaren B Posts: 977
    Matt Marvel:
    It's ridiculous that they had to go this far, but it's a pretty cool idea. I wonder how the lawmakers would feel if we went after something that they enjoy?
    Well we could try to start a "Giving back to the constituents" program, for every dollar that a lawmaker makes, they take that dollar and give it to a person who is affected by any stupid law that the lawmaker has backed. It's a win-win, the lawmakers are broke, the people that were affected by dumb laws are now a few bucks richer.
  • Duder2Duder2 Posts: 926
    I can really relate to these guys. It's the same way up here in Seattle, smoking inside any business or within 25 feet of an entrance is illegal. The only smoking establishments around are at casino's on reservations. Of those, I only know of one cigar lounge which is at Snoqualmie. It's a really great place with great people, but at almost an hour from my house I can't get out there very often. I don't see why they can't just allow exceptions for places that are specifically designated for smoking, such as a B&M or a smokers lounge. This ultra liberal state is freakin killing me...
  • jsnakejsnake Kansas CityPosts: 5,800 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Thanks for sharing this article. Good read. I am sitting here thinking this. Who goes into a cigar/pipe/tobacco shop? People who consume the tobacco product. The fact that you are banned from smoking in such a place is ridiculous. I know I am preaching to the choir here but it is ridiculous. We need to start fighting for change to these blanket laws. If you do not want to be around cigar smoke stay the hell out of a cigar store. Make places put in air ventilation systems.

    I like the idea of having a small club like that with a place to go. Right now I am lucky to have that at my local B&M. Hopefully that city doesn't alienate the cigar consumer by passing a blanket law to punish the masses.
  • bforresterbforrester Posts: 16
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_smoking_bans_in_the_United_States#Smoking_laws_of_the_United_States_by_state For your perusal, I would imagine it to be a fairly correct list being publicly generated and all. I live in Pasadena and work in Glendale which both have fairly strict no smoking laws. The amusing part is that there are a few quite popular cigar "lounges" in the areas where the bans are the strongest. None of them are to my liking, but they are still in existence which is the important part. Still quite a few B&M's around as well. We even have a brand new local liquor store which from what I have been told has a decent walk in. I don't disagree with the bans in restaurants and such as I don't want to have to smell nasty cigarette smoke while I am eating. Any indoors area I understand, but I think if people would just learn to be more respectful of other peoples space this would have never been an issue in the first place. I think there is enough room on the beaches for us all (see San Diego). Who has more of a right though, your right to breathe "clean" air or my right to smoke where I want, or could it be my clean air? How are we gonna cover up the new version of a speak easy when it is illegal to be in possession of tobacco?
  • clearlysuspectclearlysuspect Jacksonville, FloridaPosts: 2,124 ✭✭✭✭
    This seems so cool! I want to be part of an underground cigar club. I know this isn't the point, but it just seems like fun with the added risk and excitement. Just as long as prices don't skyrocket.
  • HaysHays Costa del Sol, SpainPosts: 2,338 ✭✭✭
    clearlysuspect:
    This seems so cool! I want to be part of an underground cigar club. I know this isn't the point, but it just seems like fun with the added risk and excitement. Just as long as prices don't skyrocket.
    No shi t...sounds pretty rockin to me too! lol
    ¨The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea¨ - Isak Dinesen

    ¨Only two people walk around in this world beardless - boys and women - and I am neither one.¨
  • Garen BGaren B Posts: 977
    bforrester:
    Who has more of a right though, your right to breathe "clean" air or my right to smoke where I want, or could it be my clean air?
    We live in California though, is our air even clean anymore?
  • bforresterbforrester Posts: 16
    Garen B:
    bforrester:
    Who has more of a right though, your right to breathe "clean" air or my right to smoke where I want, or could it be my clean air?
    We live in California though, is our air even clean anymore?
    No doubt about that, everytime I leave the state for a few weeks upon returning my lungs are on fire for a few days. Maybe they should be pushing to stop our current forms of transportation from dumping particulates in the air at such a high rate.....oh wait they already are. I guess we will just have to walk to the speakeasy as well, man I hope its gonna be close.
  • KriegKrieg Posts: 5,092 ✭✭✭
    Wow, this is actually pretty cool idea.
  • bforrester:
    image
    image

    I wish I lived in a grey state =(
    Instead, I live California. Shame, since I am going to college to become a programmer and CA is the 'hotspot' for that career.
  • MarkHMarkH Posts: 120
    I think Wisconsin still has smoking/non-smoking areas in restaurants. Bars, I'm not sure. Las...?
  • SmokeeeSmokeee Posts: 221
    MAJORdorMo:
    bforrester:
    image
    image

    I wish I lived in a grey state =(
    Instead, I live California. Shame, since I am going to college to become a programmer and CA is the 'hotspot' for that career.
    This map is already out dated. VA is no longer a gray state... as of November 30th, 2009 :(
  • ejenne87ejenne87 Posts: 1,925
    Smokeee:
    MAJORdorMo:
    bforrester:
    image
    image

    I wish I lived in a grey state =(
    Instead, I live California. Shame, since I am going to college to become a programmer and CA is the 'hotspot' for that career.
    This map is already out dated. VA is no longer a gray state... as of November 30th, 2009 :(
    But, it is also ahead of its time! NC wont be smoke free in bars and restaurants until Jan. 2, 2010.
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