The management of Velvet Cigar Lounge, located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, announced yesterday plans to close and relocate. Management cited unreasonable terms of lease resigning details in their decision to relocate. Though they’ve had many problems with ventilation and troubled neighbors in recent years, Velvet really is a great location for cigar smokers and was home to many famous cigar smokers. Off the top of my head, I know I met Billy Connolly (Boondock Saints) and John Rich from Big & Rich. FineTobaccoNYC also hosted a handful of events at Velvet (above).
Here are details from the email:
Dear Loyal Customers and Friends,
We are writing you with the disappointing news that Velvet Cigar Lounge will be closing down on July 31st. This comes after a year of attempting to have a new lease signed at our current location, but due to impossible terms imposed by our landlord, we have been unsuccessful. We have had six great years at the lounge, and we hope you also have fond memories of the cigars, friendship and laughs we’ve all shared.
We need your help to relocate. We are determined to re-open with a bigger, enhanced Velvet Cigar Lounge, and we need your support in making this a reality. We’ve already located and committed to a new space, and you can directly help in this effort by purchasing one of our many perks offered on our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.
All of the funds collected through these sales will go directly to the construction of the new lounge, and will specifically assist in covering the cost of a state-of-the-art commercial ventilation system, essential in providing an experience more comfortable than we have been able to offer in the past and topping the list of priorities for the new space.
You will also be helping keep our amazing staff of five employed, and supporting our cigar suppliers and vendors that rely on Velvet for much needed revenue in a hurting industry.
Keep the Velvet spirit alive. We’ve help build a community that mirrors the youthful energy of the East Village, catering to artsy and necktie types alike with the lounge’s creative sensibilities and laid-back vibe. From the actor to the accountant, the unemployed to the overworked, Velvet has become an oasis in our hectic city where one forgets about troubles and meets the most interesting of characters. Please help us keep one of the few cigar-friendly establishments in New York City open.
Lastly, just as important as supporting our crowdfunding campaign by purchasing a perk issharing the campaign with others. Please share by posting this link on Facebook, Twitter and forwarding on this email: http://igg.me/at/velvet/x/3723569
Nestled on 7th street in Manhattan’s picturesque Lower East Side is Velvet Cigar, an oasis for the new and experienced cigar smoker. On any given night of the week, a visitor to Velvet Cigar is likely to experience what I have on many occasions. Walking in the door, I am met with the familiar aroma of fine tobacco, the din of friendly conversation, and a welcoming staff. A brief look around reveals exposed brick walls that provide a classic backdrop to dark mahogany wood tones, rustic leather chairs, and dim candles flickering around the room. The lounge could be considered small compared to Manhattan’s larger lounges, but don’t let the lounge’s modest 400 sq. ft. of real estate fool you – Velvet’s relaxed atmosphere is hard to beat. The lounge and its unique boutique blend cigars has won high praise from media outlets like Yelp, Time Out NY, Affluence, MartiniBoys, and StogieReview.com, to name a few.
Dan Bsharat – Managing Partner at Velvet Cigar
I recently had the opportunity to sit down for a cigar and conversation with Dan Bsharat, Managing Partner of Velvet, and he described for me a bit of the lounge’s history and his business philosophy. I also had a chance to light up a cigar from Velvet’s new line, the Bowery – more on that later.
Dan started by telling me a bit about the history of the lounge. Velvet Cigar Lounge existed by the same name before Dan and his business partners purchased the lounge in 2005. After making Velvet a favorite place to hang out, they were inspired to consider buying the lounge after an employee overheard Dan complimenting the lounge’s natural charm. The employee mentioned that the lounge was on the market, and the seed was planted. In Velvet, Dan and his partners saw a golden opportunity because the lounge exemplified cigar culture and the perfect hang out. Soon after, they had purchased the lounge that they now own today.
Dan described the philosophy behind Velvet as a “new approach to cigar smoking for a younger generation.” He said that Velvet approaches cigar smoking differently, and that the boutique blends offer paradigms of different cigar tastes by using a variety of wrappers.
Just as inviting as the lounge’s warm environment are the humidors that line the high-seated bar. Although Velvet does have a small selection of big-brand cigars, Dan said that the main focus is on the boutique blend, which until recently featured three main lines named after famous NYC city areas: the Tomkins, Astor, and Cooper blend. These Dominican blends are made by a family owned farm in the Vila Gonzalez region and rolled in New York.
The most recent addition to the Velvet boutique arsenal is the “Bowery” line, named after the famous lower east side neighborhood that Dan said has recently experienced “a revival.” Although new on the scene, the Bowery is already Dan’s favorite boutique blend (and I must admit the same is true for me after trying each line).
Made in the same Nicaraguan factory that produces quality cigars for Rocky Patel, the Bowery is a real piece of artwork. The Bowery features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos for fillers, all rolled and produced in a classic box-press style. The Bowery comes in four sizes: Robusto, Toro, Torpedo, and Churchill, and is available in packs of 6 and boxes of 20 online and in-store.
As I mentioned, during my interview with Dan, I had the opportunity to enjoy my third Bowery (Churchill), and whenever possible I jotted down a few notes for a quick review. Fortunately, I have realized since the interview that notes on the cigar were not really necessary as it had a distinct flavor profile that provided for a memorable smoke. Below is my review of the cigar:
Pre-light: There really is no other way to say it: the Bowery is a beautiful cigar. The dark Habano wrapper is complimented perfectly by the dark red and gold label that displays the Velvet logo. Admittedly, I’ve only had three of these sticks so far, but from what I’ve observed construction has been impeccable – well packed, no serious vein issues, and no visual blemishes. The foot of the cigarsmells of mocha, and a hint of sweetness.
Smoking characteristics: The draw was just about right – a tiny bit tight, but still a great amount of smoke. This stick is a medium-full bodied smoke, though for the most part I found it to be medium.
Flavor: To me, the first two third of this cigar are the most distinct. This cigar opened up with tastes of spice, mocha, and woodiness. I found that the spice on this particular cigar started off pretty strong, but as I started 2/3 the spiciness faded into the background while the mocha and woodiness started to really stand out. From there the stick smoked perfectly. During the end of 2/3 and beginning of 3/3 I noticed a bit of leather coming through along with pepper. Ultimately, the flavor profile on this cigar has really captured me – it is simply a delicious stick.
Overall impression: This cigar is beautiful, well constructed, and packs a great and distinctive taste. I didn’t have any burn issues during the smoke, and enjoyed it all of the way through. Even though this particular line is more expensive than Velvet’s other blends, this will probably be my standard pick during my visits to Velvet.
I’ve always enjoyed business and love to see thriving new organizations expand, so after visiting Velvet at least a dozen times in the past two years, one of the biggest questions I had for Dan near the end of the interview was “where does Velvet go from here?” Taking a moment to think, he cracked a smile and said that “expansion is on the table” and that another lounge is a “possible option.” He went on to explain, however, that the owners of Velvet are focusing on expanding their business contacts and looking for ways to network around the city to make their cigars more widely available. As I’m not always near the Lower East Side, I hope he makes it happen!
One Classy Establishment
If you haven’t visited Velvet cigars, then put it high on your priority of night life attractions to see in New York City! The Bowery can be found for order at Velvet Lounge and online at the Velvet Cigar site.
Last night, FineTobaccoNYC hosted the first Fall smoke of the season at Velvet Cigars on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. By the day before the event, 17 people from all over New York City had RSVPd for the event, and 14 showed up. So there were plenty of people to meet, and even more conversations to have! The event was officially scheduled to run from 7:00pm – 9:00pm, but FineTobaccoNYC event guests stayed much later enjoying cigars, wine, and the beautiful atmosphere set by Velvet’s gorgeous lounge.
Full house! – click to enlarge
Cigars making an appearance last night were mainly Velvet’s boutique blends, although some other cigars from Rocky Patel and Davidoff were present. The cigar of the night was definitely Velvet’s new house blend, the “Bowery” (pictured below) that features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos for fillers, all rolled and produced in a classic box-press style. But, the Bowery is a Maduro cigar, so many guests started with either the Cooper or Astor cigars. Also on hand last night were a variety of wines and beers that guests brought to share.
Among other things, the crisp Fall night was made special by Velvet’s incredible hospitality. For the FTNYC event, Velvet dropped the $8 corking fee and offered four separate raffles. Three of the raffles were for two packs of Velvet cigars, and the grand finale raffle was for a slick, stainless steel double-guillotine cigar cutter.
Personally, I enjoyed the event most because of the new friends I was able to make. It was fun to meet one of the first guests, Dan from Davidoff uptown and hear his story of falling in love with cigars and moving to New York City. I also met a few customers who didn’t know about FineTobaccoNYC and was able to share a bit of my passion for cigars and helping to sustain the New York City cigar culture.
As the later hours of the night approached, guests began to say their farewells and head out the front door and into the chilly Lower East Side night. The event was a great success: new and old friends, cigars, and great conversation. This is what cigars are all about!
You can find the full slideshow of this event here (thanks to Christina Carter for gracing us with the use of her awesome camera!)
If you are interested in attending a free FineTobaccoNYC event, click here for more information! Events are free, but you must sign up!