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As Beverly Hills weighs tobacco ban, aficionados rally behind a 'treasured' cigar club

Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

The list of banned items includes "cigarettes, cigars, cigarillo, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, and smokeless tobacco and any electronic cigarette," city documents say.

"We expect to hear from tobacco companies," said Keith Sterling, the city's public information officer. "Even if this passes, that we'll continue to hear from them."

They have certainly heard from fans of the cigar lounges.

"There's certainly a lot of passion from those patrons," Sterling said. "The council was glad to hear from them."

By early May, the city had already received 170 letters in response to the proposal, 148 of them demanding an exception for cigar lounges. Of these, the vast majority cited the Grand Havana Room, what one insurance industry CEO called "the 'Cheers' of Beverly Hills."

Many wrote that rubbing elbows at the elite club was essential to their high-powered business.

 

"I learned about a great job opportunity at a private cigar event on the patio of the club -- a job that I eventually landed and catapulted my career to what it is now, managing billions of dollars for private equity and venture capital firms in the area," wrote Vik Thadani of Silicon Valley Bank.

Others said it was a place to escape the glare of fame.

"In our work as a security firm to many high net worth and or high profile clients, we often experience (a) lack of privacy, photographers, autograph seekers," wrote Israeli security specialist Avi Korein. He described the Grand Havana Room as "an oasis" for the stars he serves.

For some, membership was merely a way to make friends -- albeit friends in high places.

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