Beverly Hills has long been anything but a smoker’s paradise. The city was the first in California to ban smoking inside restaurants and most public places, back in 1987, and added outdoor venues to the list in 2007.
Now it is poised to enact what officials say is the most stringent tobacco ban in the country, eliminating the sale of virtually all recreational nicotine products — with one very Beverly Hills exception.
Cigarettes are out. Vapes are dead. But for an elite group of aficionados, hundreds of whom swamped committee meetings and wrote the city in protest, cigars will be spared — as long as they’re smoked inside one of three dedicated lounges.
Entreaties have poured in to City Hall from top executives at real estate offices, security firms, talent agencies — and from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nearly all of them are acolytes of the Grand Havana Room on North Canon Drive, a club so exclusive its members need a special key to get in.
“The Grand Havana Room, which I have been a member of since its inception, provides a treasured home away from home,” wrote Schwarzenegger. “It is unthinkable that the city might adopt a policy that would intentionally or unintentionally cause the closure of this character-defining institution.”
Schwarzenegger made clear he supported the ban, which gained near-final approval in a unanimous City Council vote on May 21st. But when it came to his club, Schwarzenegger wrote, the city should back off.
This will make Beverly Hills the first city in the United States to enforce a sweeping ban on the sale of all tobacco and nicotine products except those the FDA has approved to help smokers quit.
The list of banned items includes “cigarettes, cigars, cigarillo, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, and smokeless tobacco and any electronic cigarette,” city documents say.
Only the city’s three recognized cigar lounges would be allowed to continue to sell tobacco products under a proposed law. They include the Grand Havana Room, the Buena Vista Cigar Club, and Nazareth’s Fine Cigars, just a block from the Grand Havana Room.
Initial outcry led to a significant revision of the original ordinance, which comes just months after a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco.
In Beverly Hills, it is already illegal to smoke most everywhere, including while standing on the sidewalk or walking through a farmers market. The city also prohibits smoking in apartments and condos.
For a time, hotels would have skirted the ban. But that exception was reversed, and then reversed again so that the version of the ordinance recently voted on allows hotels to sell tobacco products — but only through room service.
Yet the cigar carve-out remained unchanged.