Legislation that would allow new cigar lounges to open in New Jersey was released Thursday by a New Jersey Assembly panel.
The bill, sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Wayne DeAngelo and Joseph Lagana, would authorize towns to adopt an ordinance allowing new cigar lounges within the municipality that would be exempt from the provisions of the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act. The ordinance would set forth how many lounges can open and operate within the municipality. If a town adopts an ordinance, a prospective cigar lounge would have to apply to the municipality’s local board of health to register, open, and operate a lounge in the municipality.
“Cigar smokers are a devoted and nuanced group of aficionados who gather and socialize in an environment that would be their own,” Gusciora said. “This bill would give towns that want to expand their offerings and appeal to this niche market the option to do so. It would also create a new economic engine for entrepreneurs who want to cater to cigar enthusiasts, and give cigar smokers more places to go to and enjoy their hobby without affecting non-smokers.”
DeAngelo said he thinks the restrictions and regulations in the bill “strike the right balance” between cigar hobbyists and public health concerns over smoking.
“It’s up to towns to decide if they want the new business and, after that, it’s up to the business owners to keep things running in accordance with the law. This way, everyone benefits,” he said.
The cigar lounges would not be allowed to sell or serve food or alcoholic beverages, except in the case of private parties or other events that are not open to the public. The lounges must not be located within a bar or restaurant, and must have a separate entrance. The lounges must also be equipped with an exhaust system, and hookahs would not be allowed.
Under current law, only a cigar bar or lounge that opened before December 31 of 2004 can be registered with the local board of health and be exempted from the provisions of the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act.
The proposed legislation would require a new cigar lounge to renew its registration on an annual basis. The local board of health would only be allowed to renew a registration if the cigar lounge generates 15 percent or more of its total annual gross income from the on-site sale of tobacco products, and the rental of on-site humidors, not including any sales from vending machines, continues to comply with all the requirements of the initial registration. If a cigar lounge fails to have its registration renewed, its owner would not be permitted to register another cigar lounge.
“The number of active cigar bars in the state have dwindled since the passage of the clean air act in 2004,” Lagana said. “Granting new cigar bars the ability to open, but only with municipal sign off, will help insure that new establishments only appear in areas where there’s actual local demand.”